Referendum Challenging Setbacks For New Oil Wells Qualifies for Ballot

Oil Pumpjack Overlooking the Westside of Los Angeles

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An attempt to overturn a law banning new oil and gas wells near schools, hospitals and businesses open to the public has qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

The qualification of the referendum blocks SB 1137 from going into effect. The bill by Sen. Lena A. Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, requires a minimum setback of 3,200-feet between what it calls "sensitive receptors" -- such as homes, schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, hospitals and nursing homes - - and new or reworked oil and gas production wells.

The law also requires existing wells in "health protection zones" to meet specified health, safety, and environmental requirements by Jan. 1, 2025.

The referendum needed valid signatures from 623,212 registered voters - - 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2018 general election -- to qualify for the ballot. Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber announced Friday the referendum had reached that threshold.

"This referendum will allow California voters to better control the prices they pay at the pump by removing barriers to boost the supply of our homegrown oil production," said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, the nonprofit, nonpartisan trade association which spearhead the signature-gathering effort.

Zierman said SB 1137 would lead to an increase of importing oil in carbon-emitting tankers from Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Iraq to replace oil from wells that can't be built in California because of the law.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 1137 into law on Sept. 16, Gonzalez said, "This legislation marks a true turning point in California's history and in our nation's fight against climate change and decades worth of environmental injustices faced by our frontline communities."

"Our planet is warming, and that is simply an undeniable truth but with bold actions like SB 1137 we can still catch up in the race to stop this crisis," Gonzalez said. "With the combined stress of global warming and proximity to oil and gas production wells, it is our frontline communities that carry the heaviest burden with their already increased risk of asthma, heart disease and cancer.

"That is the reality and the severity of the public health challenges that pollution-burdened communities face daily across our state, and SB 1137 will help us change that."

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