California tightens drilling restrictions
California's Senate on August 31 voted to approve new legislation that will enforce a 1 km buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and areas deemed "sensitive", such as households, public sector buildings and amenities.
Senators voted 25-10 to sanction the final amendments to the bill, SB-1136, and establish the most stringent safety buffer zones for oil and gas fields in the US.
The setback rule can only be overturned where Californian upstream operators demonstrate enforcement violates property rights enshrined in the US constitution, or if the project in question involves plugging and clearing existing wells.
Local industry groups had sought to argue a ubiquitous 1 km safety boundary had scant basis in scientific data. And Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Ann Alexander said the final bill was tougher than an earlier draft, which had exempted renovations at existing wells.
Speaking on behalf of the Western States Petroleum Association, spokesman Kevin Slagle said: "The oil and gas industry is not opposed to setbacks and in fact, supports local setbacks.
"However, a one-size-fits-all, political mandate for the entire state does little to protect health and safety, will make us more dependent on foreign oil and will likely increase costs for fuel and energy."
California's Democratic governor Gavin Newsom pushed through several climate laws aimed at achieving carbon neutrality in the state by 2045. As well as a $54bn climate spending package, other key measures passed last week included extending the operating life of California's sole remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, a measure the New York Times says was once "unthinkable" to the environmentalist lobby.