A new bill that would halt all hydraulic fracturing resource extraction, also known as fracking, by 2027, was introduced in the Senate Wednesday.
Under Senate Bill 467, authored by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara), new or renewed permits to conduct hydraulic fracturing, acid well stimulation treatment, steam flooding, water flooding, or cyclic steaming for the extraction of oil and gas would be prohibited beginning in January 2022. While permits issued in December 2021 and before would still be honored, operations would only be allowed to continue for five more years until the total ban takes place. All new or renewed fracking permits within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, health care facilities or long-term care institutions would also be prohibited by 2022.
In addition, SB 467 would also begin a program to transition oil and gas operation workers away from fracking extraction and provide training to them for other positions, such as well remediation contractors.
Senator Wiener and Senator Limon wrote SB 467 in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s October 2020 announcement that he wanted to ban fracking in California. However, they also noted numerous environmental and public health issues that fracking, or living close to fracking, brings. In a Wednesday press release, Senator Wiener specifically pointed out how chemicals released as pollution during fracking operations can lead to cancer, specifically for the 7.5 million Californians who live within a mile of an oil or gas well. He also noted that fracking plays a large part in water crises as fracking operations use an enormous amount of water during extraction, potentially straining the amount of water going to urban or agricultural areas.
“California must lead on climate and we must reduce and eventually end our dependence on oil. We’re out of time and we need to act quickly,” Senator Wiener said Wednesday. “Climate change is not a theoretical future threat — it’s an existential threat to our community and is having devastating impacts right now. We have no time to waste, and California must lead on climate action, including transitioning to a 100% clean energy economy. Extracting massive amounts of oil — particularly with destructive techniques such as fracking — is totally inconsistent with California’s commitment to a sustainable climate future. And drilling for oil near where people live or go to school is deeply harmful to community health, particularly for the communities of color near which oil extraction is most likely to be located. It’s time to transition away from these oil extraction methods, protect our community’s health and water supply, and create a brighter future for our state and our planet.”
The coming fight over fracking in California
Both Senators expect opposition, especially from the oil and gas industries, and are preparing for a fight to either heavily amend or halt SB 467.
“We expect they will be at the table,” explained Senator Limon. “But perhaps not greeting us there with roses and flowers.”
Many lawmakers, as well as environmental and medical groups, have already come out in favor of the bill, noting the benefits that an end to fracking would bring.
“Extreme oil extraction measures are just that: extreme,” stated the Sierra Club on Wednesday. “They create environmental and public health damage that can’t be restored. California has learned this lesson the hard way. Now state leaders must stop allowing expansion of fracking and other extreme oil extraction. This bill will save lives, protect water sources, and cut air pollution without risk to the economy.”
However, opposition has also been quickly forming against the bill, with many oil, gas, and other natural resource groups joined by business groups in favor of continued fracking in California.
“Oil and gas extraction and production, which includes fracking, pumps in over $20 billion each year in taxes alone in California,” an oil lobbyist who asked to remain anonymous told the Globe. “And look how many people they employ, often in rural or economically depressed areas.”
“This bill is especially strange because wells aren’t dug right next to houses like they claim. There are some nearby, but those are older wells. New wells have been going away from populated areas for years. And that’s created a lot of little cottage industries, such as people driving some workers to work at extraction sites.”
“What do they think will happen when fracking ends? They say they will transition workers, but the way they describe it in the bill sounds like many will be left behind.
“But the big thing is that oil and gas are still in very high demand in California. Very high. Why reduce production and hurt people financially by removing jobs, raising gasoline prices, and other factors that an end of fracking brings. They say they care about people’s well-being, but the bill proves that they sure as hell don’t care about what happens to them financially.”
SB 467 is expected to be assigned to a Senate committee in the coming weeks.