The Kern County, California, Board of Supervisors approved a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom over his administration’s rejection of fracking permits.
The board vote of four in favor of filing the lawsuit and one opposed occurred on August 10. The vote authorized county attorneys to sue the governor, claiming his administration is violating the constitution and state law in an attempt to create a de facto statewide fracking ban.
“The decisions (Newsom) has made to unilaterally come after the oil and gas industry in violation of standing rules and standing law, that’s been established by the state Legislature, has been a gross overreach of his power,” Phillip Peters, Kern County Board chairman, said in a statement after the lawsuit was approved. “He’s [Newsom] supposed to be executing the laws, not decreeing them. So we’re going to try and push back on that.”
‘Discretionary Authority’ Cited
In July, Uduak-Joe Ntuk, supervisor of the California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM), rejected 21 fracking permit applications filed by Aera Energy LLC for Kern County.
Ntuk denied an additional 14 Kern-located fracking permits filed by Aera on August 9.
Ntuk, appointed to his positon by Newsom, said he rejected the permits under “discretionary authority” he had as supervisor, rather than for legislatively prescribed causes.
Newsom Pushes Ban
Ntuk’s action marked the first time that fracking permits in the state have been rejected based on claimed discretionary authority of the supervisor, and seems intended as a down payment on a complete fracking ban called for by Newsom.
During the recent legislative session, Newsom called on the state legislature to pass a bill banning new fracking permits in California by 2024. A bill to do so failed to get out of committee.
Newsom subsequently moved to bypass the legislature by having CalGEM impose a regulation banning fracking. CalGem has yet to finalize the rule demanded by Newsom, but Ntuk rejected the permits anyway.
Potential Impact of the Bans
If Ntuk’s action sticks and Newsom’s ban on fracking becomes law, it will harm the economy and yet not help the environment, says Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., a senior fellow with the Pacific Research Institute.
“The costs from Sacramento’s global climate change policies are disproportionately borne by residents of Kern County,” said Winegarden. “Residents tend to have less income, so the average family is disproportionately harmed by the higher energy prices that are the inevitable result of the state’s global climate change policies.
“Additionally, since a large share of the state’s oil production occurs in Kern County, the fracking ban will eliminate a large number of good paying jobs in the region,” said Winegarden. “The sad irony is that the fracking revolution is a large driver of the national reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade and a half, meaning residents of Kern County will bear high economic costs, but the policy will fail to achieve its intended goal.”
Kevin Stone (email@example.com) writes from Arlington, Texas.