In response to criticism over CalGEM’s well stimulation and drilling permitting policies, Governor Newsom’s administration released pre-rulemaking draft regulations introducing a rule to end the permitting of hydraulic fracturing statewide, as of January 1, 2024. The DOC’s documents include a notice of the phase out public comment period as well as a draft of the new rule.
The Discussion Draft limits the proposed phase out to the use of hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing, acid-matrix stimulation and other well-stimulation treatments that enhance oil and gas production by creating channels in rock formations for hydrocarbons to flow. Specifically the rule excludes operations regulated as subsurface injections, exempting all forms of enhanced oil recovery techniques such as steam and water flooding and cyclic steaming.
This executive action taken by Governor Newsom is a welcomed move in the right direction, but leaves much to be said of the Governor’s ability to institute meaningful interventions to protect Frontline Communities and prioritize climate. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Governor Newsom’s administration insisted that an executive action to phase out fracking would be legally infeasible. Now, over halfway through his first term, it seems that was largely disingenuous. While the legal hurdles for a fracking ban in 2019 were considered momentous, now in 2021 they have been cleared with a stroke of a pen within a matter of weeks.
Unfortunately, this particular action will do little to nothing to reduce environmental degradation for Frontline Communities. The executive effort would have been much better spent instituting a responsible setback for oil and gas wells from homes and other sensitive receptors, and otherwise should have included enhanced oil recovery operations as they present a very similar public health risk as well stimulations. Since 2019 CalGEM has approved 277 well stimulation permits, all for wells located within the heart of large oil and gas fields. This number pales in comparison to the more than 1,600 new enhanced oil recovery (EOR) wells permitted in that same time, with nearly 700 of them drilled within 1 mile of homes, schools, or healthcare facilities.
FracTracker Alliance would implore Governor Newsom’s administration to work with Frontline Communities, in order to maximize the beneficial impact of future executive actions.