Large Buffer Zone Around Drilling Rigs Proposed

Senator Monique Limón’s Assembly Bill Sees Daylight

Monique Limón | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

On the eve of Governor Newsom’s announcement that he would be attending the Glasgow climate summit, he traveled to Wilmington, a neighborhood in Los Angeles with the highest concentration of oil drilling in Los Angeles, to announce that California’s energy division would be adding to its regulations a 3,200-foot setback from homes and schools for new wells. 

Asthma, other respiratory illnesses, preterm births, and low birth weights are among the adverse effects from oil and gas pollution. At the center of the effort to protect Californians from those health consequences has been Santa Barbara’s State Senator Monique Limón and Assembly Bill 1057.

“In 2019, I authored AB 1057 to ensure CalGEM (California Geologic Energy Management Division) could consider public health impacts when making rules related to oil and gas production,” Limón told the Independent. That buffer zone would protect homes, schools, and hospitals, she said. Her bill also added a responsibility for CalGEM to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from hydrocarbon development and to increase oil industry bonds for decommissioning wells and oil and gas facilities.

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The new rule would affect 30 percent of oil operations in California, the governor said, adding the state was investing millions in grants for regions affected by the transition. “We don’t see oil in our future,” he said, but California had a responsibility to lead. Its economy — the world’s fifth largest — is the size of 21 states combined. California had also suffered the consequences of climate change, which cost taxpayers $99 billion in emergency funding across the United States annually.

The 40,000 petitions and comments pushing for a limit on air toxins had been prompted by Food and Water Watch and their allies, said Alexandra Nagy, California director for the nonprofit. “People are getting horribly sick living next to oil and gas wells,” she said.

The new CalGEM rule is in a public comment stage through December 21, and it’s possible the draft rule could change depending on the comments received, Limón’s office noted. Nagy called the oil and gas lobby the largest in California with tremendous power. The political lift to phase out drilling is much harder, “but because this is a health and safety issue, the governor can take action,” she said. The real problem remained, however, of the ongoing harm to people living near existing drill pads, she said, an issue they would continue to tackle.

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