Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will stop issuing new permits for hydraulic fracturing by January 2024, and has instructed the California Air Resources Board to work on ways to phase out oil extraction in the state by 2045, he said on April 23.
The move on “fracking” is regarded mostly as symbolic, as California Department of Conservation records show that the process accounts for only 2 percent of oil extraction in the state.
“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” Newsom said in a statement.
“I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”
Hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting oil and gas from parts of the earth’s crust inaccessible by conventional drilling methods. It became a hot topic in the 2020 presidential election because it plays a crucial role in the energy industry of Pennsylvania, a swing state.
Newsom seems to have changed his tactics after a push in the state legislature to ban fracking failed. He told reporters in September 2020 that only the legislature can ban fracking because he didn’t have the authority to do it.
“We simply don’t have that authority. That’s why we need the Legislature to approve it,” Newsom said at the time.
However, the efforts to push the fracking ban via legislature failed. Democratic lawmakers didn’t drum up enough support to advance Senate Bill 467—which was intended to ban fracking in the state—out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.
While environmental organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club hailed Newsom’s announcement, an oil producers trade association said the executive move is “disappointing” and that it will undermine the state’s energy industry and shift oil production to foreign countries with questionable human rights records.
“It’s disappointing that the Governor’s legally questionable announcement will undermine California’s climate leadership. Curbing in-state production through a well stimulation ban would not change the fact that Californians demand 1.4 million barrels of oil each day,” the California Independent Petroleum Association, a trade association representing approximately 500 independent crude oil and natural gas producers and related companies operating in California, said in a statement (pdf).
“Instead of meeting our vast needs with California oil, produced under the planet’s strictest regulations, we would economically reward foreign regimes who do not share our environmental standards and human rights values.”
Reuters contributed to this report.