California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious plans to combat climate change appear to significantly curtail energy production within the state, including a ban on all hydraulic fracturing in California by 2025 and a ban on all oil drilling by 2045. These regulations, along with outlawing the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment by 2024 (or whenever state regulators determine that is feasible) and instituting a ban on the sale of all new gas-powered cars by 2035, are by far the most progressive in the country and will have drastic impacts on multiple industries if they are voted into California law.
Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing
Newsome kicked off these regulatory efforts in April of this year by announcing plans to ban all hydraulic fracturing as part of a longer-term aim to end all oil extraction in the state. The order is a blow to oil companies in California, but a limited victory for environmentalists who have been pushing Newsom to do more to combat fossil fuels, climate change and pollution in disadvantaged communities.
Although fracking accounts for only 17% of California’s oil production, the move to ban fracking is the first major step that California has taken to initiate their regulatory goals. To date, the Newsom administration has not handed out a new fracking permit since February and has rejected a flurry of proposals for new fracking. Specifically, Newsom’s order directs the California Geologic Energy Management Division, the agency that oversees oil operations, to immediately begin drafting rules that will stop issuing new fracking permits by January 2024. The order will not ban existing fracking, so fracked wells already in operation can continue. About 150 wells per month undergo hydraulic fracturing in California, according to a 2015 study.
This proposal by the Newsom administration has drawn sharp criticism from industry within the state as it will likely lead to significant job losses and lead to California becoming even more reliant on energy imports in order to fulfill the states demand.
At the United Nations Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26) currently taking place in Glasgow, world leaders are negotiating and navigating through regulations that will directly shape what the energy landscape will look like for the foreseeable future. Newsom was slated to lead a delegation of lawmakers and administration officials at the COP26, but he abruptly dropped out because of unspecified family obligations. In his absence, the governor has sent a cohort of staff members to lobby the world leaders to expand their efforts to curb reliance on oil and gas.
Banning fracking would have minimal effect on California’s planet-warming greenhouse gases. All of California’s oil and gas production emits only about 4% of the state’s total greenhouse gases, and fracking would be a very small fraction of that.
Phillip DeBauche, Director, Environmental and Technical, writes about the Council’s environmental and HSE efforts. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights industry practices, workforce development, Council activities and more.