California’s governor seeks to ban new fracking and halt oil production, but not immediately.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced a plan on Friday to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by 2024 and to consider phasing out oil production statewide by 2045.
The announcement, on the heels of Earth Day, came as a petition for Mr. Newsom’s recall was expected to qualify for the ballot. In the past, the governor has said he lacked the executive authority to halt fracking, which has long been a source of both pollution and higher-paying, blue-collar jobs in California.
Mr. Newsom campaigned on a promise to ban fracking, and in September asked Democrats in the Legislature to send a bill to his desk that would do so. But some Democrats criticized him later for failing to promote it sufficiently. Last week, a sweeping bill incorporating that ban and other fossil-fuel regulations was blocked by industry lobbyists and moderate Democrats seeking to protect paychecks in the oil-rich San Joaquin Valley.
“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” the governor said in a statement on Friday. “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”
Politically, Mr. Newsom’s ban and its gradual timeline were viewed as a way to appease the progressive voters he will need should the recall effort lead to a special election, as expected, while preventing the deep-pocketed oil industry from throwing its weight behind the recall.
The proposed moves, which would ban new fracking permits starting in 2024 and require more rigorous review of current permit applications, will involve a lengthy rule-making process by regulatory agencies such as the California Air Resources Board and the state Department of Conservation. The announcement does not affect existing fracking operations, which are already considerably diminished and now account for about 17 percent of California’s oil and gas production.
Nonetheless, Mr. Newsom’s plan was slammed by labor groups representing refinery workers and by oil industry trade groups, who vowed to fight it.
“Banning nearly 20 percent of the energy production in our state will only hurt workers, families and communities in California and turns our energy independence over to foreign suppliers,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief executive of the Western States Petroleum Association, said in a statement.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, praised the announcement only faintly.
“It’s historic and globally significant that Governor Newsom has committed California to phase out fossil-fuel production and ban fracking, but we don’t have time for studies and delays,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
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