AP News: California Democrats cap legislative year with climate wins
By KATHLEEN RONAYNE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Tougher clean energy goals, a ban on new oil and gas wells near homes and schools, and establishing guidelines for capturing carbon and storing it underground are among the climate proposals California Democrats advanced in the final days of the legislative session.
Taken together, along with tens of billions in budget money for climate proposals, the policies marked one of the state’s most groundbreaking years for climate action, some advocates said.
“This was a watershed year on climate action,” said Mary Creasman, chief executive officer for California Environmental Voters.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in August delivered to lawmakers a slate of climate proposals, some of which lawmakers had been pushing unsuccessfully for years. All but one, a proposal that would have required deeper greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2030, will now head to his desk.
Broadly, legislative Republicans argued the bills would destroy in-state jobs and require the state to turn to foreign countries to import oil to maintain an economy that still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Democrats, meanwhile, said the urgency of climate change requires swifter, more aggressive action.
NEIGHBORHOOD OIL DRILLING
Oil and gas companies would no longer be able to drill wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of homes, schools and other community sites.
About 2.7 million Californians live within that distance of a well already, according to state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, one of the bill’s authors. Studies show living near a drilling site can elevate the risk of birth defects, respiratory issues and health problems. Neighborhood oil wells are common across parts of Los Angeles County and Kern County.
The legislation wouldn’t shut down the more than 28,000 existing wells in that zone, but would require them to meet strict pollution controls. Those wells would also be barred from most permits to deepen or rework the wells.
State oil regulators announced a similar policy in 2021, though it has not yet been finalized. Supporters of the policy believed passing the law was the quickest path forward.
“This is a victory for every single family and every single frontline community in California that has been fighting Big Oil’s drilling in our backyards for decades and pushing for setbacks for years,” Kobi Naseck, coalition coordinator, for Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods said in a statement.