What They’re Saying: Environmental and Health Advocates Support California’s Move to Prevent New Oil Drilling Near Communities, Expand Health Protections

SACRAMENTO – Environmental and health advocates in California and throughout the country applauded Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement that the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) has released a proposal that would prohibit new wells and facilities within a 3,200-foot exclusion area – or setback – from homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other sensitive locations, along with other safety measures. During his first term in office, Governor Newsom has made California a national leader on efforts to phase out the use of fossil fuels, fight the climate crisis, protect the environment and support public health. The Governor took bold action to end the issuance of new fracking permits by 2024, move the state toward phasing out oil extraction by 2045 and reduce demand for oil by ending the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

Here’s what environmental and public health advocates and state and local leaders had to say about California’s move to protect communities as the state works to phase out fossil fuels:

Dr. Yasuko Fukuda, Chair of American Academy of Pediatrics California: “Living in close proximity to oil and gas drilling is associated with increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, birth defects, premature birth, and low birth weight. These health impacts are disproportionately borne by low-income residents and communities of color in California. The American Academy of Pediatrics California (AAP-CA), which represents 3,500 pediatricians, commends the Governor – and the many frontline organizations and community groups that have been advocating for setbacks – on taking this hugely important step toward ending environmental racism and protecting the health of children throughout California.”

Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author: “Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that after many years of pushing from environmental justice advocates, the state was ready to dramatically restrict oil and gas drilling. Advocates had demanded setbacks of 2,500 feet from homes and schools; Newsom went them one better, setting a 3,200-foot limit. …As in so many ways, California is a leading indicator here: the political influence of the oil industry has passed its peak and is now in sharp decline.”

California Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Gladys Limon: “The Governor of California today issued a draft health and safety oil setback rule. It marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel legacy of environmental racism in CA! No child should live or go to school next to deadly oil operations. Thank you, Governor Newsom!”

Sierra Club California Director ​​Brandon Dawson: “The announcement of a 3,200-foot setback distance is a huge first step towards protecting the health and safety of California’s frontline communities. We are excited to see recognition from Governor Newsom that the oil and gas industry has been polluting communities, and that the administration is taking concrete action to protect Californians from further harm.”

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court: “After a two year campaign, Gavin Newsom did the right thing yesterday in proposing a new rule to end new oil wells within a half mile of a home, school or business.  The 3200 foot setback is the biggest in America and follows a recent decision by the LA County Board of Supervisors to end all oil wells in the county. Evidence is overwhelming that living close to an oil well causes all kinds of health problems, and many of us live closer than we realize.”

Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Ann Alexander: “California is really taking the bull by the horns this time. State regulators listened to the scientists and did not shy away from proposing the largest statewide setback requirement in the nation when it became clear that it was needed to protect public health. This sends a message to the oil industry that it will not be coddled anymore. Governor Newsom and his team are displaying some real leadership chops with this proposal. It’s a great first step toward freeing these communities and our state entirely from the health and climate harm wreaked by oil drilling.”

Communities for a Better Environment Executive Director Darryl Molina Sarmiento: “Today, California took a critical step forward for public health and the safety of our families and children. By creating the framework to end harmful oil drilling near communities, California is prioritizing frontline residents most impacted by harmful pollution while working towards a health equitable transition.  We will continue to engage with the Governor’s Office in the next few months to secure a final health and safety setback regulation at CalGEM that offers strong protections for frontline neighborhoods impacted by oil drilling.  The fight isn’t over.  We need drilling operations phased out in our communities, with robust plans put in place to protect workers and communities.”

California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis: “California made a big step towards cleaner air and safer communities today. I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for taking the bold action to prohibit new oil wells and facilities near schools, homes, hospitals, and other sensitive sites.”

California State Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins: “I applaud Governor Newsom’s latest effort to protect Californians & reduce the damaging effects of oil wells. This is a critical step forward as we work to address the inequitable impact of oil drilling on lower-income areas & communities of color & create safer environments for all.”

State Senator Lena Gonzalez: “We’re committed to clean environments for our communities. Thank you to the fierce EJ advocates for getting us to this point in California and to Governor Newsom for saying No to more oil drilling near our California families.”

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi: “I thank Governor Newsom’s Administration for this historic announcement. Neighborhood oil drilling needs to stop. But the fight isn’t over. We need to continue to fight to protect all Californians from the health hazards from oil well pollutants”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “Thank you Governor Newsom for taking bold action to fight the climate crisis by phasing out fossil fuels. Oil drilling has no place in Los Angeles, and as the world prepares to come together for COP26, cities are leading the transition away from fossil fuels, protecting our communities, and creating good-paying green jobs.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn: “Our oil and gas dependence has been devastating to us all, but no one has suffered more than families that live near drilling sites. I applaud Governor Newsom’s move to ban new oil and gas wells near homes and schools. This is how we take a stand for our health and the environment. In LA County, we’re on the road to phasing out oil & gas drilling in unincorporated areas. We’ve already banned new drilling sites & are making plans for how to transition workers to clean energy jobs. We don’t have to choose between jobs & community health. We can have both.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell: “I’m honored to support Governor Newsom’s announcement of a 3,200 ft buffer between oil fields & communities. Thank you to Voices In Solidarity Against Oil In Neighborhoods California for being part of the coalition of advocates that are helping to ensure California is a climate leader. We have come a long way but still have more bold steps to take.”

State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk: “We thank all the partners we worked closely with to develop these proposed regulations to safeguard the health of communities across California. To develop this detailed set of rules, we collaborated with a range of state agencies and an independent public health expert panel to ensure a thorough analysis of relevant science and engineering practices.”

Environment California Director Laura Deehan: “We’ve known for years that oil drilling is dirty and dangerous; that even ‘routine’ operations have significant health and safety impacts. Oil and gas extraction is happening startlingly close to homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship, leading to increased risk of asthma, complications during pregnancy and elevated cancer risk. But with these new rules, California will have the strongest safety buffer zone in the country at 3,200 feet.”

Greenpeace USA Co-Executive Director Annie Leonard: “Governor Newsom’s momentous announcement today opens the door to a better future for millions of Californians living near harmful oil and gas extraction. This success belongs to the frontline communities and environmental justice groups who for years have implored our lawmakers to end dangerous neighborhood drilling.”

Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute Director Kassie Siegel: “Today Governor Gavin Newsom showed how health protection and climate ambition go hand in hand. Heading into #COP26Glasgow, we need more leadership like this that finally confronts the climate, health and justice crises created by the fossil fuel industry.”

Evergreen Action: “Dirty, dangerous fossil fuels are killing Americans and harming our health in real ways—especially the most vulnerable among us. This is a vital step on the way to a cleaner, healthier future.”