Elected Officials to Protect America California chapter looks forward to a phase out of all fossil fuel extraction and production in California with just transition 

By Ramona du Houx

October 21, 2021

A directive made by Governor Newsom almost two years ago to take action on the issue of neighborhood oil and gas extraction has been acted on. Today the California Geologic Energy Management Agency (CalGEM) has released a proposed regulation that would prohibit new wells and facilities within a 3,200-foot exclusion area – or setback – from homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other sensitive locations. It would also require pollution controls for existing wells and facilities within the same 3,200-foot setback area.

Scientific research has found that there is no safe distance to live, work or play near oil production sites. Just being in proximity of the wells increases exposure to toxic chemicals and byproducts from oil and gas operations.

Living next to oil and gas production leads to respiratory illnesses, especially asthma as well as low birth weights, adverse birth outcomes and premature deaths, widening the healthcare disparity gap.

“On behalf of over 400 California elected officials, we applaud Governor Newsom’s announcement of a health and safety setback of 3,200 feet from new oil and gas drilling. It’s a major step in the right direction to protect the health of frontline communities and our climate,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “The Governor’s bold announcement sets the stage for California to be a national and global leader to rapidly phase out fossil fuel production to protect our communities and climate. There is much more to be done and we look forward to working with the Governor to accelerate the transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.”

An EOPA California letter signed by over 400 elected officials from across California to the governor identified major steps he could take to mitigate the health risks that have led to premature deaths because of toxins and pollutants associated with fossil fuel extraction and processing. In the letter, EOPA California requests Governor Newsom stop new fossil fuel permits, phase out fossil fuels immediately, and institute 2,500-foot buffers between drill operations and community sites, while ensuring a just and realistic transition for workers.

According to the Associated Press: the 32,400 wells within 3,200 feet of community sites account for about a third of the state’s oil extraction. The draft rule announced today would not ban wells already operating in that zone but would add new pollution controls.

“As an elected official who grew up next door to Kern County’s large oil fields, I’ve witnessed and suffered the terrible health effects and injustice of drilling next to neighborhoods,” said Katie Valenzuela, Sacramento City Councilmember and California Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA). “While I applaud Governor Newsom’s step forward today, we must acknowledge that the rule as proposed fails to address existing wells in communities. We strongly encourage the Newsom Administration to keep working with frontline communities to push for a rule that ends all oil and gas drilling within 3,200 ft of homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, and farms to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuel production in California.”

“Governor Newsom’s momentous announcement means he is listening to elected officials and advocates from frontline communities. It gives me tremendous hope for millions of Californians who live near harmful oil and gas extraction. With heatwaves, fires and droughts he understands more must be done to mitigate the climate crisis. I’m sure he knows that California has an opportunity to lead in a clean energy revolution, while ensuring a just transition for oil workers,” said Carmen Ramirez, Ventura County Board of Supervisors, California Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA).

CalGEM will now accept public comment on the draft rule for 60 days. Once that is completed, CalGEM will begin a comprehensive, in-depth economic analysis of the rule. Following this analysis, CalGEM will submit the proposed rule to the Office of Administrative Law and will begin an additional process of receiving comments and refinement of the proposal as needed.