Permit approvals to drill or rework new oil wells fell by 64% in the first six months of 2021 over the same period last year, giving Governor Newsom an excellent opening to more decisively transition off of fossil fuels, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance said today. The number of permit applications filed by oil and gas companies also fell by 52%.
The overall number of oil and gas permits approved under Newsom now totals 9,014 since he took office in January 2019, according to NewsomWellWatch.com, which is run by the groups and maps all oil wells, with just 1,019 permits approved, by comparison, in the first six months of 2021.
“The market is the single most important factor suppressing permit applications, but Governor Newsom is also sending the oil industry the right signals by rejecting fracking permit applications and announcing an end to fracking by 2024,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “Governor Newsom now has a golden opportunity to seize the moment and come forward with a decisive transition plan off of fossil fuels that includes switching oil workers away from production toward desperately needed well remediation.”
“Overall, rates of both permit approvals and counts of permit applications to drill new wells have dropped in 2021,” said Kyle Ferrar of FracTracker Alliance. “While the market traditionally drives permit application counts, Governor Newsom now has the opportunity to reduce the expansion of oil extraction. Starting with a responsible setback for Frontline Communities of at least 2,500 feet from drilling operations, Newsom can limit new drilling and begin California’s transition away from the stranglehold of big oil.”
The biggest drop in approvals was for new oil and gas production wells and for new wells using more dangerous “enhanced oil recovery” techniques such as cyclic steaming and steam flooding. Those combined approvals fell 83%. (See Table 1 below.) Permit approvals to rework wells, including re-drilling, unclogging, and deepening, fell 36%. Combined that meant CalGEM approved 64% fewer permits across the board in the first six months of 2021 than last year.