California Governor Orders Fracking Phase-Out by 2024

California Governor Orders Fracking Phase-Out by 2024
Pump jacks and wells are seen in an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation with gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the verge of a boom, near McKittrick, Calif., on March 23, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Alan McDonnell
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week that he will direct the state’s Legislature to stop issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing by 2024.
The primary thrust of California’s N-79-20 executive order (pdf) is to ban the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks by 2035. However, the order also includes measures for making coordinated investments in passenger rail, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure, and ceasing to allow new fracking plays in the state.

The executive order states that to “protect the health and safety of our communities and workers the State must focus on the impacts of oil extraction as it transitions away from fossil fuel, by working to end the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024.”

In comments made at a press briefing on Sept. 23, President Donald Trump said that he didn’t expect Newsom’s ideas to spread beyond California. “It just seems like a very extreme position,” Trump said. “I don’t know how you get there.

“I don’t see this happening elsewhere. I don’t think we should be taking any steps to get rid of fossil fuels, for example. And, by the way, there should be consumer choice for all automobiles, and that includes electric automobiles.

“It just sounds very extreme to me.”

Newsom’s plans would not signify a blanket ban on fossil-fuel cars by 2035, as Californians will still be allowed own and drive them, or buy and sell them on the used-car market. Likewise, the order does not affect conventional oil production in the state of California.

A natural gas pump jack is pictured in Lost Hills, Calif., on March 24, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images)
A natural gas pump jack is pictured in Lost Hills, Calif., on March 24, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Newsom said he believed the order was one of the most serious initiatives in California’s history—while also being “symbolic.”

“If you want to reduce asthma, if you want to mitigate the rise of sea level, if you want to mitigate the loss of ice sheets around the globe, then this is a policy for other states to follow, for other states and nations to emulate,” Newsom said at a press conference announcing the executive order.
“If you care about your kids and your grandkids, ... then you care about the core construct that we’re advancing here in this executive order.”


The American Petroleum Institute (API) criticized what it called “a zero-emissions mandate in a state that has struggled to keep the lights on,” referring to a series of rolling blackouts in California in August and September.

According to the API, Newsom’s support for a ban on fracking would also impact the state’s natural gas and oil industry—a key driver of the state’s economy and a huge source of both employment and taxation revenue.

“Today’s announcement to curb in-state production of energy will put thousands of workers in the Central Valley, Los Angeles basin, and Central Coast on the state’s overloaded unemployment program, drive up energy costs when consumers can least afford it, and hurt California’s fight to lower global greenhouse gas emissions,” said California Independent Petroleum Association CEO Rock Zierman.

“Instead of creating our own local energy, each year California relies more and more upon foreign oil, which isn’t produced with our strong environmental protections nor does it generate desperately needed local and state tax revenue.

“At a time when Californians pay more for energy while experiencing man-made ‘green outs,' it doesn’t make sense to hurt consumers, our economy, and our environment by banning California production.”

In contrast, Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said that California’s move to ban cars with internal combustion engines and stop issuing permits for fracking was just “an important first step” in addressing climate change.

The Sierra Club also called on Newsom to go further, to cease permitting new oil and gas drilling, pipelines, and infrastructure, and to phase out oil production and refining in California. The organization said California should move to “accelerate the building of solar, storage, wind and other clean technologies so that all our electricity is 100 percent zero-carbon by 2030.”

“So much more needs to happen here and across the country,” Phillips said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said recently that he was not planning to ban the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas, which critics say can be harmful to groundwater. “I am not banning fracking,” Biden said during a speech in Western Pennsylvania on Aug. 31. “Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking.”

At a Democratic presidential debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in March, however, Biden had said, “No more, no new fracking.”