Oil Industry Drops Ballot Challenge Against California Limit on Drilling

A California law that limits the drilling of new wells near homes and schools is set to take effect after the oil industry dropped a proposal to fight these limits on the November ballot and chose to pursue legal action instead.

In 2022, California lawmakers passed a bill to keep new oil wells 3,200 feet away from homes, schools, hospitals, and parks. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1137 into law in September of that year.

However, the law has been on pause after a referendum on the bill, pursued by the oil industry, qualified in February 2023 for the 2024 ballot.

After the California Independent Petroleum Association’s (CIPA) proposed referendum on the bill officially qualified for the November 2024 ballot, the law prohibiting new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals was stayed and could not be enforced until after the election.

CIPA’s campaign for a referendum on the ballot was dubbed ‘Stop the Energy Shutdown’ petition. The oil companies have argued that the new law “threatens the livelihoods of over 50,000 hardworking Californians and forces the state to rely on more expensive, imported foreign oil that is completely exempt from California’s strict environmental laws.”

Now CIPA withdrew the referendum on Thursday, hours before the deadline for it to get on the ballot.

Instead, the industry plans to take the issue to court and ask a judge to block the law.
CIPA has decided that “supporters of the energy shutdown can make unfounded claims in the press and in paid advertisements, but they can’t make those claims in court without evidence,” Jonathan Gregory, the association’s president and CEO of oil and gas company RMX Resources, said in a statement carried by AP.

“That’s why we are pivoting from the referendum to a legal strategy,” Gregory added.

Commenting on the industry withdrawing from the referendum, California’s Governor Newsom said “Big Oil saw what they were up against — and they folded, again. No parent in their right mind would vote to allow drilling next to daycares and playgrounds. This victory ends new harmful drilling in our communities and enforces common-sense pollution controls.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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