California has responded to Federal threats of increased oil and gas drilling by making it virtually impossible for any drilling to happen on or near protected lands by halting most pipeline leasing.
What is it?
Assembly Bill 342. Specifically designed to thwart plans by the Trump administration to increase oil and gas production on federal land, AB 342 will make it illegal for pipelines to cross over state land. As most federally protected areas, such as National Parks and Wilderness Areas, are adjacent to state owned land, drilling could not occur in most areas. Language in the bill also specifically mentions that no leasing authority can allow pipelines on any public land, even in tidelands and submerged lands.
This would join current California law forbidding pipeline use and drilling on state land and also likely halt federal overriding like the Grand Staircase National Monument in Utah being opened for mining over objections from the state of Utah earlier this year.
Who Backed It?
AB 342 was authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). Assemblyman Muratsuchi had previously authored AB 1775 in 2018, which prohibited any new leases for oil and gas developments. For AB 342, he explained his concern about the environment and land protection if public lands in California were opened up to oil and gas concerns.
“The federal administration plans to open more than 700,000 acres of federal land to oil and gas leasing, and this bill will help protect these threatened lands,” stated Muratsuchi earlier this year. “Assembly Bill 342 will prohibit any state infrastructure leases that would support fracking and oil development on these federal lands.”
Environmental groups have also largely been in favor of the bills, with no groups publicly opposing the bill.
Despite initial concerns that energy, oil, and gas providers would fight hard to keep the bill from passing, AB 342 passed the Senate and the Assembly in early September. Voting was largely based on party lines, 23-9 and 59-19 respectively, with many pro-oil Assemblymembers and Senators debating the bill publicly.
In April several drilling and pipeline restriction bills were up in the Assembly and the Senate, including AB 342 and AB 345, which would have radically changed the law on where oil and gas mining could take place. As AB 342 had a majority public support on its side, and others like AB 345 were more divided, monetary and lobbyist resources were directed to the bills and legislation that they were more likely to stop.
AB 342 currently sits on the Governor’s Desk in Sacramento. In the past Governor Gavin Newsom has indicated he was supportive of similar bills, so every indication is that he’ll sign this one.