Following testimony from several interested parties, including a report delivered by the Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to formally oppose embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to ban hydraulic fracturing – and eventually all in-state oil and gas production – statewide. The vote was four in favor of fighting state restrictions, and none opposed. One Board member did not vote due to absence.
On April 23, Newsom directed the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), the state agency that regulates oil and gas operations, to stop issuing fracking permits by January 2024.
The same day Newsom asked the California Air Resources Board to find ways to end all oil and gas production in the state in order to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2045.
In 2020, Newsom had requested the legislature to pass a bill banning fracking, but state lawmakers tacked on additional restrictions on oilfield processes that drew labor union opposition. In the end, the fracking ban legislation failed to pass.
‘You Could Be Next’
CalGEM formally proposed draft anti-fracking rules on May 21.
CalGEM’s rules include broad language allowing for a regulatory phase-out of all “well stimulation” techniques including fracking, acidizing, gravel packing, steam flooding, and steam injection.
At a Kern County Board meeting held to discuss CalGEM’s actions, Oviatt called the proposed ban an unwarranted attack on the oil and gas industry, as well as a dangerous precedent for other industries seeking to do business in Kern County.
“And now, with no evidence of an environmental impact, the state is going to ban this innovative method,” Oviatt testified. “Not ban an industry, although they said they will someday.
“What is to stop the next industry being attacked?, asked Oviatt. “Aerospace brings an innovative use and invests in it. It becomes a part of our economic diversification but then the state decides for whatever reason to ban that.
Oviatt warned all sorts of industries could be limited by the state.
“What about alternative fuels? What about carbon capture? What about all these things th[at] bring … economic diversification,?, said Oviatt. “This ban sends a chilling message, that if you come to California with something innovative, you better watch out because you could be next.”
‘Ignore, Science .. and Facts’
Governor Newsom’s attack on oil and gas production ignores the evidence of the tremendous benefits they provide, says Kevin Slagle, vice president of strategic communications with the Western States Petroleum Association.
“Once again, Governor Newsom has chosen to ignore science, data, and facts to govern by bans, mandates, and personal fiat,” said Slagle. “Banning nearly 20 percent of the energy production in our state will only hurt workers, families, and communities in California, and turn our energy independence over to foreign suppliers.
“Through all means possible, we [the Western States Petroleum Association] will join with workers, community leaders, and others who wish to protect access to safe, affordable, and reliable energy to fight this harmful and unlawful mandate,” Slagle said. “We will be a key part of an equitable energy future for California.”
Duggan Flanakin (email@example.com) writes from Austin, Texas.