No more excuses. No more obstruction. No more insider corruption.
The video below is from 2015 when Jerry Brown was governor, and it’s infuriating, that even with a Democratic majority for decades and a supermajority in the CA state legislature since 2018, we’re still asking for the same things in 2021. Maybe we need to look more closely at our “Democrats.” (See article on AB-345)
“Climate change is not a theoretical future threat — it’s an existential threat to our community and is having devastating impacts right now. We have no time to waste, and California must lead on climate action, including transitioning to a 100% clean energy economy. Extracting massive amounts of oil — particularly with destructive techniques such as fracking — is totally inconsistent with California’s commitment to a sustainable climate future. And drilling for oil near where people live or go to school is deeply harmful to community health, particularly for the communities of color near which oil extraction is most likely to be located. It’s time to transition away from these oil extraction methods, protect our community’s health and water supply, and create a brighter future for our state and our planet.” -Senator Scott Wiener.
Action #1: Call your legislators and tell them to pass these bills!
SB-467 “End Fracking & Harmful Drilling Act” and AB-896/SB-47 – a companion bill that helps employ displaced oil workers to plug old wells, have both been sent to the SENATE Natural Resources and Water Committee for their April 13th agenda. Find the minimal script that best suits each of your legislators. (Yes, call assemblymembers too! Let them know we’re watching.)
- Action: If your Democratic legislators are the environmental warriors who wrote these bills, use this script!
(for example: Sens. Limón, Wiener, Allen & Assemblymembers Stone, Kalra, Ward, Wicks, and Bennett)
- Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to thank Asm./Sen. [___] for supporting SB-467 and its companion bill [AB-896/SB-47]. [Add how this industry has impacted you, your family or your community.]
- Action: If your Democratic legislators have a good environmental record, use this script!
- Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Asm./Sen. [___] to pass both SB-467 and its companion bill [AB-896/SB-47]. [Add how this industry has impacted you, your family or your community.]
- Action: If your legislators are actually part of the reason why, even with a Democratic supermajority, we haven’t been able to pass meaningful oil industry reform, use something like this.
- Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask how Asm./Sen. [__] is going to vote on both SB-467 and its companion bill [AB-896/SB-47]. (WAIT FOR ANSWER) I want [him/her] to know that I’ve been reviewing [his/her] voting record on environmental justice issues with the [__] scorecard(s) [and have looked up [his/her] political donors]. I’m now very [concerned/angry/disappointed] that [he/she] is aiding the interests of the oil industry at the expense of our climate, our environment, our air, our water and the health and lives of both their own workers and [those/my friends/my family] living in nearby communities. [Add how this industry has impacted you, your family or your community.] It’s long past time to end our state’s participation in environmental racism and refocus on becoming leaders in our nation’s transition to green energy. I will be watching out for how Asm./Sen. [__] votes on these bills to see if [he’s/she’s] putting our lives first this time.
How do I know which kind of Democrat I’m being represented by?
Last year, a 5-4 Senate Natural Resources and Water committee vote struck down consideration of a bill (AB-345) that also called for a 2,500-foot setback between future oil wells and homes, schools, and playgrounds, just like SB-467 does. Only two of those “NO” votes came from Republicans. (“NO” votes = Borgeas, Caballero, Hertzberg, Hueso, Jones) Although the CA Democratic party no longer accepts donations from the oil industry, it can still donate directly to candidates, creating a voting bloc of Democrats who, voting like Republicans, kill or water-down environmental legislation. (The three Democrats who voted “NO” on AB-345 received $142,206 in donations from oil and gas corporations.) These shenanigans used to cruise below our radar, but now, with computers helping to track legislation through every committee, and organizations tabulating results, we can more easily spot the Democrats-in-name-only. Find out how your legislators fared in these scorecards. It takes about 5 minutes to go through them all. Take an average. (Remember, some legislators like Sen. Limón changed office at the last election.)
- Courage Score here. (What is this?)
- CEJA – CA Environmental Justice Alliance score here. (pg. 12) Check out retired Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s and Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi scores for comparison to yours.
- CLCV – CA Environmental scorecard from the CA League of Conservation Voters Assemblymembers. Senators
- Sierra Club scorecard here.
If you see that your legislator has mediocre-or-worse scores, it’s time to learn who is funding them. There are probably numerous ways to find this information, but followthemoney.org is a good start. Then choose your script above and make your call.
State Senator Monique Limón (SD-19): SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
State Assemblymember Steve Bennett (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
Not your people?:findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
Action #2: Contact the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee Members:
- If your legislator is a member, call and/or email them before their 9:00 am meeting on April 13th. http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov
- VISION want calls to the following senators. Check the locations for friends and family members!
- Call 202-618-4297 to tell Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman to vote #YesonSB467 (5th Senate District, which encompasses western San Joaquin County, including the cities of Stockton, Manteca, Tracy, Escalon, Riverbank, Lodi, Galt, Ripon and part of Modesto)
- Call 218-209-4082 to tell Senator Robert Hertzberg to vote #YesonSB467 (18th Senate District, representing nearly 1 million people in the San Fernando Valley, including cities of Sylmar, Granada Hills, Tacoma, Arieta, Panorama City, Sun Valley, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Valley Glen, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Toluca Lake, parts of Northridge and Universal City.)
- Call 844-672-5067 to tell Senator Ben Hueso to vote #YesonSB467 (40th Senate District, which encompasses Imperial County and the border regions of San Diego County. Includes El Centro, Brawley, Imperial, Calexico, Holtville, Chula Vista and National City.)
- Call 202-883-6199 to tell Senator John Laird to vote #YesonSB467 (17th Senate District, contains Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Counties in their entirety, as well as portions of Monterey and Santa Clara Counties. The cities include Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Gilroy, San Luis Obispo, Morgan Hill, Seaside, Paso Robles, Atascadero, Monterey, and several more smaller cities. A small portion of San Jose was included in this district to achieve population equality.
- Anyone can submit a position letter. Instructions for doing so here. All position letters and amendments are due no later than April 2nd by 5:00 pm.
Senator Henry I. Stern (Chair)
Senator Brian W. Jones (Vice Chair)
Senator Benjamin Allen
Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman
Senator Shannon Grove
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg Voted with Sens. Andreas Borgeas and Hueso against AB 345 last year. (2500′ limits)
Senator Ben Hueso – Voted with Sens. Andreas Borgeas and Hertzberg against AB 345 last year. (2500′ limits)
Senator John Laird – Appears to be a solid environmental supporter.
Senator Monique Limón – Wrote SB-467 with Sen. Scott Wiener and wrote SB-47 with Asm. Steve Bennett.
Action #3: Contact Gavin.
Minimal script: I’m writing to ask you to not only support the goals outlined in bills SB-467 “End Fracking & Harmful Drilling Act” and AB-896/SB-47, but to use the power you have right now stop new well approvals under state law. The president is calling a halt to drilling to new oil and gas lease sales on our federal public lands not just to help stop climate change but also to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. It’s time for California to join in.
Governor Gavin Newsom: email, (916) 445-2841
Action #4: Other activities to help spread your message!
- Create a video to send to your legislator. Tell your story about the effects of drilling and pollution on your life and on the lives of those you love. Complete instructions here.
- Write a letter to the editor. NRDC has also put together a great starter kit of talking points to add to your own story.
- Make your own meme! From lastchancealliance.org – Check out the new meme-generator tool on the LCA website, which was developed in coordination with Vision! It’s a great way to select your own photos and choose from some pre-selected messages/meme copy to personalize it in support of the bill! Once you’ve created your meme, there’s also a Click-to-Tweet option with a pre-drafted tweet, and all you need to do is attach your image and hit “send”! https://lastchancealliance.org/graphic-tool/ You can see it in action (and RT!) here: https://twitter.com/LastChance_CA/status/1379879261348093953
Deeper Dive – Bill overview
SB 467 – Oil and gas: hydraulic fracturing, acid well stimulation treatments, steam flooding, water flooding, or cyclic steaming: prohibition: job relocation would:
- halt the issuance or renewal of permits for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steaming, and water and steam flooding starting January 1, 2022 (What are side effects of these treatments?)
- prohibits these extraction methods entirely starting January 1, 2027
- prohibit all new or renewed permits for oil and gas extraction within 2,500 feet of any homes, schools, healthcare facilities or long-term care institutions such as dormitories or prisons, by January 1, 2022. CA is behind other oil-producing states in requiring this basic measure.
- Create a program to transition workers to safer, secure jobs, including those that remediate oil industry environmental damage.
SB 47/AB 896 – “Oil and gas: hazardous and idle-deserted wells and production facilities: expenditure limitations” would:
- Both bills prevent potentially high taxpayer costs by creating an industry-funded mechanism to employ workers to plug deserted wells. The bill is a significant step to ensure that the oil and gas industry pays for the remediation of hazards that the industry has historically left behind and those the State and taxpayers continue to inherit.
- Estimated that CA may be stuck with 5,540 wells without a viable operator, resulting in taxpayer costs ranging from $500 million to billions of dollars.
- Idle and deserted wells increase the risk of environmental and public safety hazards. They contaminate aquifers, create oil seeps, endanger local wildlife, degrade air quality, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and threaten public health and safety.
- AB 896 — Idle Gas and Oil Well Remediation authorizes CalGEM to impose a claim or lien on an idle well if the operator has failed to pay idle well fees, if the well is unsafe, or if the state has incurred costs for remediating the well. This will provide an important tool to help motivate oil companies to obey the law and properly seal wells no longer in use.
- How are people affected by nearby oil industry operations?
- AIR: The largest cause of health conditions in communities near oil facilities is increased air pollution, which is partially caused by chemicals used during these extraction methods, including but not limited to: benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and formaldehyde, all of which can cause cancer. Fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, is often found in increased concentration surrounding oil and gas wells, and is associated with premature mortality, chronic bronchitis, headaches, and nosebleeds, among various other heart and lung issues. FracTracker’s literature review found that health impacts resulting from living near oil and gas development include cancer, infant mortality, depression, pneumonia, asthma, skin-related hospitalizations, and other general health symptoms. Read here on the “slow motion pandemic” of air pollution.
- WATER: The risk to drinking water comes in two major ways. First, water used in the hydraulic drilling process can leak into aquifers and other groundwater supplies. Second, the wastewater that fracking produces can contaminate supplies when waste leaks from landfills that accept oil remains, when waste spills from trucks or pipelines moving it, when equipment fails, or when waste leaks from unlined disposal pits. Oil-industry pollutants have been found in water-supply wells in Kern County, according to a new report released by the State Water Resources Control Board. Chemicals detected at elevated levels include arsenic, barium and boron. The report also showed a recent increase in fracking near protected groundwater in California, which the board said was “expected” due to the close proximity water wells and oil and gas activities. Oil and gas operators are exempt from certain provisions of several environmental laws designed to protect public health and safety, including the Safe Water Drinking Act.
- NOISE, LIGHT: Oil or gas extraction can also create noise and light pollution, causing fatigue, depression, cardiovascular disease and irritability.
- Why is this an environmental justice issue?: Of the 7.5 million Californians living within 1 mile of an active oil or gas site, most are low-income, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx. People of color are often consigned to mixed use or industrial neighborhoods by a legacy of racist mortgage restrictions. Companies prefer to locate polluting industries in such areas because land is cheaper and residents tend to have little political sway. (Great video here.) “For too long black and brown communities have borne the brunt of the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction. Communities in Los Angeles have been demanding for many years that we establish health and safety buffer zones around oil extractions sites. We know that impacts from oil drilling can be felt as far as 3 miles and the closer one lives to a site the more risk of exposure to highly hazardous chemicals. It is a health imperative for the State of California to stop drilling where we live, work, play and pray.” – Priyanka Fernandes, MD, MBBS, MPH, UCLA, Pediatric Infectious Disease and Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialist
- Has the 2500′ setback limit effectiveness been researched? Studies have shown that health impacts increase with the density of oil and gas development, suggesting that health impacts are dose dependent. Occidental College Researchers have supported a 2,500′ setback as being the necessary minimum distance to help alleviate the harshest conditions of degraded air quality. However, living beyond that from an oil and gas site doesn’t mean one escapes all health impacts of air and water contamination, just that the concentrations of contaminants will be less harmful. Associated impacts are potentially experienced by communities living at distances up to 9.3 miles (Currie et al. 2017) and 10 miles (Whitworth et al. 2017).
- How many Californians live within the prescribed area?: In 2018, it was estimated that 850,000 Californians lived within the setback distance of at least one or more oil and gas wells. Nearly 7.5 million Californians live within one mile of an oil or gas well, while over 2 million live within one mile of an operational well. (See map here to find your nearest well site.)
- What extraction methods are banned by this bill? Hydraulic fracturing, acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steam operations, and water and steam flooding. would be banned under SB 467. as they pose serious danger to the environment and the state’s water supply, and cause a myriad of negative health impacts on nearby communities and on CA at large.
- How many wells need extreme measures to produce oil? Oil production has declined in CA since the mid-1980s, as the light, easily harvested crude is running low. Now, only around 5 to 15 percent of the oil is recoverable without additional production and extraction methods that further stimulate the well.
- Besides pollution and health dangers, what other issues does this type of oil production cause? “Because of climate change, California has seen years of extreme drought, costing the state billions and killing tens of thousands of agriculture-related jobs. These oil extraction methods utilize an enormous amount of water, which is an increasingly precious resource. In 2014 in California, with hydraulic fracturing alone, oil producers used nearly 70 million gallons of water. Additionally, water used for enhanced oil extraction is likely to never re-enter the usable water supply due to the levels of contamination these practices cause. Water prices will only continue to rise due to competition from oil producers as our water supply becomes scarcer, which has already become a problem in states like Colorado. Given the pressing nature of our climate crisis, our state must end these harmful practices before it’s too late.“
- How many wells would be affected by this new law? 2019 data from Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) there are 9,835 active wells that fall within the 2,500’ setback distance, representing 13.1% of the total 74,775 active wells in the state. 6,558 idle wells that fall within the 2,500’ setback distance, of nearly 30,000 total idle wells in the state. Putting these idle wells back online would be blocked if the wells require reworks to restart or ramp up production. For the most part operators do not intend for most idle wells to come back online. Rather operators are just avoiding the costs of plugging and properly abandoning the wells.
- Where are these wells? Are any close to me? Fractracker provides a well map here for all of CA. Below is a partial section of Ventura County from Red dots are active wells within a 2,500′ setback, green triangles are 2018 DOGGR permits within the 2500′ setback and yellow squares are idle wells within the setback. Outside the setback, black dots are active wells, black squares are idle wells. (International, national and state-by-state maps here.) This map from CFROG shows which companies own permits in our area.
- Who hates this bill?: The oil industry, of course. They are threatening to sue the people of CA. “Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western State Petroleum Association, said the bill, if passed and signed, is “so broad and ambiguous” that it could lead to state taxpayers shouldering “potentially billions in takings claims” by oil companies whose property was impacted by setbacks.” However, governments are starting to sue them back for ignoring pollution levels and causing climate change. In 2010, residents in a tract in Carson sued Shell Oil for leaving behind benzene pollution that threatened their health and their lives and in 2016, residents of southwest Detroit sued Marathon due to air pollution concerns at their refinery.
- Who else?: There is also strong pushback from labor unions involved in the building trades. Wiener has spoken with Robbie Hunter, the head of the Building Trades Council, and other labor leaders, who are opposed so far to SB 467. “I understand that they have skepticism that the jobs will materialize,’ he said. “They’ve been burned before … In general economic transitions sometimes work out well for workers and sometimes they don’t.”
- New factor in the mix – President Biden just released his American Job’s Act, which details the need for new jobs fixing roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. He also list the eliminating all lead pipes, retrofitting homes and office buildings, laying new transmission lines and funding for capping orphan gas and oil wells and abandoned mines!
- Over 107,000 workers were laid off nationwide between March and August of 2020 due to the pandemic, and some industry analysts believe that not only did that change the industry’s reputation as a reliable employer, but that as much as 70% of those jobs may not return by the end of 2021. 53% of oil and gas workers highlighted job security as a concern. Also concerning – their fatality rate is still seven times greater than those working in other industries.
- How many workers are now working in the industry: Out of 16.2 million jobs statewide, only 7,700 are directly connected to the oil and gas sector, with 3,400 of those jobs in Kern County, according to an October 2020 analysis by UC Berkeley economists and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average blue-collar wage is $55,600, the study found and most are non-union jobs.
- How would a just transition for workers be achieved? The CA Geologic Energy Management Division would be tasked with creating and administering a program to identify workers in downstream, midstream, and upstream oil and gas operations who have lost their jobs and to help fossil fuel workers, and the communities in which they live, with a just and equitable transition away from the fossil fuel industry. This would include, but not be limited to, training opportunities, health care coverage, secured pensions of affected workers, and the creation of new, unionized, green jobs, with family-sustaining wages, alongside investing in economic development and infrastructure in communities currently supported by fossil fuels.
- History of the oil industry in CA: Great article documenting CA’s harrowing history with this destructive industry, including how a sinkhole of hot oil swallowed a worker whole, in this well-researched article here.
- How does passing SB-467 relate to the Ventura County’s oil permit issue? Our County Board of Supervisors took two actions – to require oil companies that were drilling and fracking under old permits to comply to with up-to-date rules when applying for new wells, and to require minimum setbacks from residences and schools. The industry responded by collecting signatures on petitions to force the Board to overturn their decision, which they declined to do, pushing it on to the next election. (Blow-by-blow narrative here.) For those who’ve never heard of this political fight, or have forgotten, here’s a great overview of it, complete with a example of why wanting the oil industry to use the the latest rules is not just a theoretical exercise.
“What the County did last year was close a loophole that allowed some oil companies to skirt modern laws that protect public health, precious water supplies, our public lands, and the environment,” said ForestWatch’s director of advocacy Rebecca August. “The update simply made all new oil development and operations subject to the same rules that other businesses in Ventura County must follow. You can see why the oil industry is fighting it.”
Most antiquated permits have no limit on the number of wells that can be drilled, no expiration date, and do not stipulate what extraction techniques can be used. To drill or frack new wells under these permits, the oil company pays a $330 application fee and obtains an over-the-counter Zoning Clearance without public notice or environmental review — much like a gazebo or air conditioning unit.
Many of these wells are located within or adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest. Others are dangerously close to communities like Ventura, Oxnard, and Fillmore. Hundreds of community members and environmental and climate justice organizations have advocated in support of updated oil permitting to better protect the health and safety of the community, the climate, and public lands. (IV – Lost Hills and Upper Ojai residents – read this.)
“The threat posed by antiquated permits is already well-documented. Oil operators on these permits are responsible for numerous health and safety violations. It was an antiquated permit that led to one of Ventura County’s biggest toxic spills. Oxnard farmers discovered diluent — a toxic additive used to thin out oil sludge — floating in their broccoli crops. The farmers reported the spill. The oil company, protected by an antiquated permit, didn’t report anything until they got caught. And that spill? It still hasn’t been cleaned up,” said Liz Beall, Executive Director of Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG) an environmental watchdog in Ventura County. “Voters are going to have to decide in June of 2022 — should we hold oil companies accountable for poisoning our air, land, and water? Or are we going to let their deep pockets make the rules, and tolerate more of the same?”
So, before SB-467 came along, the decision as to whether oil companies could continue to create new wells in Ventura County under old permits, rules and conditions instead of current CEQA requirements was placed on the shoulders of voters in the June 2022 election. Or maybe not, if SB-467 gets passed first. We’ve reached out to a number of resources and the answer to the possible effects of SB-467’s passage on our hometown issue is “complicated” and we’re still unsnarling an answer. If Newson signs SB-467 into law in October of 2021, our local fight may be moot. However, they may join with other oil companies in “taking” lawsuits, adding financial burdens to taxpayers along with the environmental and health burdens we already bear. We will add on to this post as we find out more.
Some resources to look at:
- SB-467 is sponsored by the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) and VISION.
- CFROG oil drilling permit map.
- (CapitalandMain) Oil and Gas Indusdtry Fights New Regulation in Ventura County
- VISION – Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods – here
- Fractracker Alliance here.
- Is there an oil well near you (Ventura County)? here
- “My Tap Water” here
- EWG’s Tap Water Database here.
- Report: Orphan Wells in CA – An Initial Assessmen of the State’s Potential Liabilities to Plug and Decommission Orphan Oil and Gas Wells. here.
- (National Geographic) Air pollution kills millions every year, like a “pandemic in slow motion.”
- (Jacobin) California Democrats Kill Gas and Oil Regulations After Campaign Donations
- (Desert Sun/ProPublica Investigation) Oil companies are profiting from illegal spills. And California lets them. Includes harrowing story of how an industry worker was swallowed whole into a boiling oil sinkhole.
- (Desert Sun) Bill would ban fracking, other risky California oil production techniques by 2027
- (CapitalandMain) Environmentalist Demand Gavin Newsom Join Biden’s Halt of Oil and Gas Drilling
- (Sierra Club) Our bold local legislators take on the oil industry
- (NRDC) Taking the Gloves Off in California Battle Over Oil
- (NRDC) Oil Drilling Setbacks: CA can move from laggard to leader.
- (CRPE-EJ.org) Growing Resistance shares the stories of communities on the frontlines who are rising up against not only the immediate health impacts of the oil and gas industry, but against the growing climate impacts that are disproportionately impacting some of the most vulnerable in the state.
- (Weiner) Senators Wiener and Limón Introduce Legislation to Ban Fracking and Other Destructive Oil Extraction Methods and to Require Distance Between Oil Extraction and Homes and Schools
- (insideclimatenews.org) Study Raises Concerns About Toxic Oil and Gas Emissions in California Air
- (CFROG) A statement from CFROG’s Executive Director on Baseless Oil Industry Attacks.