California Proposes Oil and Gas Drilling Buffer Zone Around Communities

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube,23 ABC News | KERO

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a statewide ban on oil and gas drilling within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and hospitals in order to protect public health and further its goal to combat climate change.

The draft rules, released last week by the state’s oil regulator California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), aim to create what would be the largest buffer zone in the country.  Existing wells in those setback areas would not be banned, but subject to stricter regulation.

More than 2 million Californians, primarily those in low-income and minority communities in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley, reside within 3,200 feet of oil drilling sites, according to The Associated Press.

People who live near drilling sites are at a higher risk of birth defects, cancer, respiratory problems and other health issues, the AP reported.

In a statement, the Democratic governor said, “This is about public health, public safety, clean air, clean water — this is about our kids and our grandkids and our future. A greener, cleaner, brighter, more resilient future is in our grasp and this is a commitment to advance that cause.”

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CNBC noted that while California is the seventh largest oil-producing state in the US, it does not have any rules or standards for the distance that active wells need to be from populated areas.

Other states, such as Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, have enacted rules on how close oil drilling can happen to certain properties.

“Our reliance on fossil fuels has resulted in more kids getting asthma, more children born with birth defects, and more communities exposed to toxic, dangerous chemicals,” Newsom said in a statement.

According to Reuters, Newsom directed the state’s oil and gas regulator to draft rules after legislative efforts aimed at requiring setbacks between oil and gas operations and communities in California failed in recent years.

Environmental advocacy groups have long called for a setback zone between fossil fuel operations and communities, along with a moratorium on new oil and gas permits in those zones, according to CNBC.

The new restrictions are not due to take effect until 2023, but are already facing pushback from California’s oil and gas industry, which has warned it would raise energy prices.

Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in a statement that the proposed ban is an “activist assault on California’s way of life, economy and people,” the AP reported.

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