Controversial measure repealing oil well restrictions will not be on California ballot

Controversial measure repealing oil well restrictions will not be on California ballot

Controversial measure repealing oil well restrictions will not be on California ballot

California’s oil industry says it is withdrawing its controversial ballot measure challenging a state law that would have imposed new restrictions on oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes and schools.

The oil industry, which spent $20 million gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot in November, withdrew its initiative just before the deadline today. Instead, the companies say they will challenge the law in court.

Environmentalists hail the industry’s decision as a major victory because it removes an obstacle to a law that bans new drilling and imposes safety restrictions on existing wells in communities.

But oil industry groups say the referendum was misinterpreted by environmental groups. They said the rollback law will eliminate jobs, raise gasoline prices and increase California’s dependence on imported oil.

“Shutoff advocates can make unsubstantiated claims in the press and in paid ads, but they can’t make those claims in court without evidence,” Jonathan Gregory, president of the California Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re moving from a referendum to a legal strategy.”

The ballot measure would have asked voters to repeal a 2022 law, drafted by Senator Lena Gonzaleza Democrat from Long Beach, who established buffer zones in neighborhoodsThe law prohibits drilling new oil and gas wells in areas near homes, schools and other “sensitive” areas such as hospitals. In addition, operators of existing wells must take steps to improve their safety, such as installing leak detection equipment, testing water and controlling dust and other contaminants.

Once the initiative is officially withdrawn by the Secretary of State’s office, the state’s restriction rules will go into effect. Operators of existing wells within the buffer zones must develop safety plans by 2025 and implement them by 2027.

The state has permitted more than 240,000 oil and gas wells throughout California, many of them concentrated in Kern County, Los Angeles and the Long Beach/Signal Hill area.

After the bill became law, the oil industry launched a campaign, which they called “Stop the Power Shutoff,” to put the law before voters on the November ballot, a measure that put its implementation on hold. New permits were reportedly granted to work on existing leaking or unproductive wells in those areas. increased While the new rules were in limbo.

“Big Oil saw what they were up against and caved, once again,” Gov. Gavin Newson said in a statement. “No sane parent would vote to allow drilling next to daycares and playgrounds.”

He Health risks arising from oil operations They have been at the center of a decades-long campaign to protect families, schoolchildren and the elderly from the impacts of drilling. The growth of the oil and gas industry in many regions predated California’s sprawl, meaning it’s not uncommon to find drilling and refineries across the street from subdivisions.

More than 2.5 million Californians live Within 3200 feet of an oil or gas wellThese neighborhoods are predominantly low-income (nearly 70% non-white), disproportionately affecting communities of color for decades due to health impacts.

“Heart disease, respiratory emergencies, premature developmental impacts, miscarriages,” said Mabel Tsang, policy director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “These are generations of families with cancer, of people who saw their childhood friends die because of oil drilling. A cycle from cradle to grave.”

The withdrawal of the initiative gives environmental advocates a victory over oil and gas interests, which spent Some $60 million to lobby against the initial bill and launch the referendum.

Assemblyman Isaac Bryan, D-Culver City, negotiated with the industry to remove it from the ballot. Bryan dismissed the lawsuit that oil producers said they would file, calling it an “act of desperation.”

A number of bills are still moving through the Legislature and are being targeted by environmental activists, who vow to continue the fight.

“We cannot give up,” Tsang said. “We have played their game and beaten them by their own rules.

Alexei Koseff contributed to this report.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.

Julie Cart, Special for the Daily Press