February 8, 2021

California Democrats Push for More Drilling Oversight, Reduced Natural Gas Use

California Democrats Push for More Drilling Oversight, Reduced Natural Gas Use

A California senator representing the heart of the state’s oil patch has signaled an intent to pursue legislation to enact more oversight on well stimulation techniques.

Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado’s intent bill, Senate Bill (SB) 25, indicates the San Joaquin Valley district she represents has many energy industry workers but she wants to protect the rural communities too.

Bills may be introduced through Feb. 19. Hurtado said Kern County residents ought to be “leading any discussion of how state policy affects their economy and environment.” The communities have been hit hard economically by Covid-19, and “reforms to the regulatory system must come with effective investment in, and support of, the workers and communities in the southern central valley of California.”

The intended bill as proposed would regulate “well stimulation treatment projects to protect public health and safety and the environment, while protecting the livelihoods of essential workers.” Impacts on jobs from the regulations must be “fully compensated,” Hurtado said.

“The oil debate in California often leaves out an important detail, namely that oil workers make real money to provide for real families, and that generates real economic activity,” she said.

Kern County, she noted, is the site of the state’s well stimulation work, which contributes $2.5 billion to the county gross domestic product. The county also has received $120 million in annual tax revenue from oil and gas activity.

Last year’s drilling permit total in Kern County was down 23% from 2019, and the 83 permits for hydraulic fracturing were at their lowest level in history. The average for fracturing permits since 2016 had been 220 a year. The California Geological Energy Management Division also denied 57 fracturing permits, another state record.

The Western States Petroleum Association and the California Independent Petroleum Association indicated there are a number of other energy policy issues circulating, including efforts regarding Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive orders.

Three bills, SB 30, 31, and 32, separately would chip away at the source of 40% of the carbon emissions, call for state buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2035, create decarbonization programs for consumers, and mandate local governments to decarbonize through revised general plans.

In addition, SB 67 would require 100% renewable electricity resources earlier than the current 2045 target, while SB 68 would require emissions and the use of fossil fuels to be reduced to make it easier to create all-electric buildings.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Phil Ting’s Assembly Bill 33 is aimed at cutting back natural gas use in residential and commercial buildings. The bill would ban gas connections in new public schools and state buildings, as well as prohibit utilities from subsidizing an expansion of the gas network. 

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