Energy & Environment

California oil drilling restrictions make ballot initiative after industry lobbying

AP Photo/ Aaron Kehoe
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at the I.D.E.S. Portuguese Hall in Half Moon Bay, California.

A California law barring new oil drilling in residential areas and school zones will be put directly to voters next November following a campaign by a state oil trade group.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the measure, Senate Bill 1137, into law in September 2022, part of a suite of aggressive climate bills passed and signed during the legislative session. The law, which took effect Jan. 1., prohibits either new wells or retrofitting of existing wells within 3,200 of homes, schools, nursing homes or hospitals.

Last week, California’s secretary of state confirmed a petition to put the law on the ballot in 2024 had received more than 978,000 signatures. The state required at least 623,212 signatures for the measure to qualify as a ballot initiative.

The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), whose lobbying defeated a similar bill in 2019, spearheaded the petition drive.

In a statement to The Hill, CIPA CEO Rock Zierman said the initiative would give voters input on a measure that was “rushed through last minute.”

“Senate Bill 1137 threatens the livelihoods of over 50,000 hardworking Californians and forces the state to rely on more expensive, imported foreign oil that is completely exempt from California’s strict environmental laws,” Zierman said.

About 46,000 Californians are employed by the oil and gas industries, 18 percent of whom work in direct extraction and production, according to a January report by the Los Angeles-based Gender Equity Policy Institute. However, the institute also determined 67 percent would be able to transition to doing the same work in a different sector.

Newsom blasted the lobbying effort in a statement, accusing the fossil fuel industry of undermining state efforts to transition to renewable energy.

“I proudly signed SB 1137 last year to stop new oil drilling in our neighborhoods and protect California families, Newsom said. “Big Oil knows that California is moving beyond fossil fuels, so on their way out these corporations are doing everything they can to squeeze out profits as they pollute our communities. We’re not standing for it.”

“California will hold Big Oil accountable, and it starts with passing our price gouging penalty to prevent extreme gas price spikes like the one we saw last fall,” he added.

Tags Gavin Newsom

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