Today, Governor Newsom directed the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to initiate a regulatory action to ban new permits for fracking by 2024 and asked the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by 2045. 

Meanwhile, the state is simultaneously poised to make a decision on oil companies’ requested Cat Canyon Aquifer Exemption, which could open the door for a massive expansion of dangerous steam injection operations in the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County. This exemption from federal drinking water protections would allow oil and gas operators to inject steam and millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into aquifers beneath Cat Canyon. Injections of oil field fluids threaten to contaminate drinking water relied on by over 150,000 County residents.

“The governor’s acknowledgment today that ‘California needs to move beyond oil’ is exactly right, but we must move quicker, and a fracking ban is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Tara Messing, staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Center. “We can’t risk another two decades of dangerous oil extraction, like cyclic steam injection and steam flooding, that threaten our communities’ water and air, and our state’s mosaic of natural resources.”

“Phasing out both oil production and use is essential and must start now,” said Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter. “First step is to do no more harm. The state must not grant new aquifer exemptions, such as the one pending in Cat Canyon, that would open up new areas to dangerous, enhanced drilling through our critical drinking water aquifers.”

“We already have evidence of oil wells in Cat Canyon leaking toxic fluids, threatening to irreparably contaminate the Santa Maria Valley’s drinking water,” said Ken Hough, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN). “The governor’s announcement does not change the fact that this exemption would allow for more dangerous oil extraction at the expense of our clean water.”

Moving beyond oil is a commitment that EDC and our clients, Sierra Club, and SBCAN, overwhelmingly support, but immediate action is needed to address the climate crisis, protect clean drinking water for all, and safeguard healthy communities. Allowing for risky and extremely carbon-intensive oil production is inconsistent with the Governor’s announcement today and only serves to hold California back from achieving its goal of a clean renewable energy future. We urge the governor to put a more urgent deadline on his actions and to complete the puzzle by denying the Cat Canyon Aquifer Exemption.


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