New oil wells or drilling facilities in the state of California would have to be located at least 3,200 feet from homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other “sensitive locations” under proposed rules announced Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“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. “California is taking a significant step to protect the more than two million residents who live within a half-mile of oil drilling sites, many in low-income and communities of color.
“We are committed to protecting public health, the economy and our environment as we transition to a greener future that reckons with the realities of the climate crisis we’re all facing,” he said.
Newsom made the announcement during a visit to Los Angeles.
The proposed regulations were put forward by the state Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division. The proposed 3,200-foot setback proposal was recommended by a 15-member panel of public health experts who concluded that close proximity to oil facilities can lead to “higher rates of adverse birth outcomes, respiratory diseases such as asthma, and heart disease, among other health impacts,” according to the governor’s office.
The 3,200-foot setback requirement would apply to new oil drilling facilities. Existing facilities within that buffer zone would be required to enact a series of pollution controls, although the health experts supported moving such facilities farther away from communities.
The Geologic Energy Management Division will accept public comment on the proposed rule for 60 days, after which it will conduct a economic analysis before submitting the rules to the Office of Administrative Law. The proposal will then undergo a further public comment process before taking effect.
The 3,200-foot setback proposal is actually 700-feet bigger than the one suggested by environmental activists. But Alexandra Nagy, California director of Food & Water Watch, said the state needs to stop issuing permits altogether for oil and gas facilities.
“Governor Newsom’s announcement is a victory for communities on the frontlines of drilling who suffer the daily health impacts of proximity to fossil fuel extraction,” Nagy said in a statement. “(The) 3,200-foot buffer zones between sensitive community sites and drill locations are a vital step in protecting Californians from the pollution and emissions of fossil fuels. But we know that there is only one way for Governor Newsom to truly protect Californians from the public health and environmental crises caused by fossil fuels: stop issuing oil and gas permits immediately.”
According to the governor’s office, more than 2 million Californians live within a half-mile of oil drilling sites.