LA Times: California lawmakers OK buffer zones between new oil wells and homes, schools
BY TARYN LUNA
After years of failed attempts to impose health and safety buffer zones around new oil and gas wells in California, state lawmakers on Wednesday sent a bill to the governor that would require setbacks between those production sites and residential neighborhoods and other sensitive areas.
Senate Bill 1137 is a major part of a package of climate legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to bolster the state’s environmental policies.
“It’s a long-standing and glaring example of environmental racism,” said state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), who introduced the bill. “Research shows, of course, that people of color, Black, brown and Indigenous people suffer the greatest consequences of this toxic proximity and these are the same communities that have oil production in their backyards.”
The legislation prohibits the California Geologic Energy Management Division from approving a new oil well within 3,200 feet of a “sensitive receptor,” defined as a residence, education resource, community resource, healthcare facility, dormitory or any building open to the public.
Similar efforts have failed to gain traction in the state Legislature in the past, succumbing to tough lobbying opposition from the petroleum industry and trade unions. Newsom largely remained on the sidelines during those earlier legislative battles while he pushed his administration to adopt setbacks through state regulations.
The governor waded into the fight this year, however, after the Western States Petroleum Assn. ran ads in Florida criticizing Newsom’s climate policies. The ads were aired after Newsom ran his own television spots in Florida calling out the state’s restrictive policies on abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Opponents argued that the bill would raise already sky-high gas prices and criticized the rushed nature in which the legislation was approved during floor debates in the Legislature.