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AB 342 aims to stop oil and gas drilling on federally owned lands. (Fleeson)
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Most Oil And Gas Development On Federal And State Land Is Blocked Under New Law

California is the first state to successfully block gas and oil drilling on federal land

By Evan Symon, October 17, 2019 2:22 pm

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Assembly Bill 342 into law, making it illegal to have oil and gas pipeline leases on state owned land.

AB 342 marks a halt in a recently enacted policy in Washington that allows drilling and related infrastructure construction on Federally owned areas in the National Park System. As most of those park lands are surrounded by or immediately adjacent to state owned land, nearly all affected areas would be either extremely difficult or impossible to build out from.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi

The author of the bill was Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). Assemblyman Muratsuchi has been a longtime supporter of environmental issues, particularly those that limit resource excavation. The signing of AB 342 comes at the heels of a similar bill he authored that was passed last year: AB 1775, which allowed no new oil or gas infrastructure leases.

In addition to environmental protections, Assemblyman Muratsuchi also used the bills’ signing to voice his displeasure over the Trump administration’s handling of federally protected lands.

“We need to fight the Trump Administration’s plan to frack and drill for oil in some of our most beautiful national and state parks,” said Assemblyman Muratsuchi in a statement earlier this week. “They have already approved new drilling and pipelines in the wildflower rich Carrizo Plain National Monument near San Luis Obispo. Other protected lands like the Giant Sequoia National Monument near the Sierra Nevada mountain range are at risk. By prohibiting the issuance of new oil infrastructure leases on state lands, AB 342 is sending a clear message to Trump that we will fight to protect these beautiful lands for current and future generations.”

The signing was celebrated by environmental groups and local organizations that did not want pipelines and increased traffic to go through their towns. As the bill was passed in the Assembly and the Senate on party lines, Democratic lawmakers have also praised the announcement of the signing.

Oil and gas companies voiced their opposition to the signing of the bill, with no federal response coming out as of Thursday.

The new law is already starting to have some effects in California. A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan to open up 800,000 acres of federal land to oil and gas drilling that was announced earlier this month has effectively been stopped.

The BLM did not return calls from the California Globe regarding what their next steps would be.

Despite gas drilling becoming more and more common on federal lands nationwide, the passage of AB 342 has made California the first state to successfully block gas and oil infrastructure leasing on public lands with the expressed purpose of halting drilling on federal land. 

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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