On Wednesday, I received a text from a friend with a picture of a ballot referendum and the text: “Is this good or bad?” A young man with national parks stickers on his Prius outside of the Pavilions on Vine and Melrose had been telling her and others that if they signed this petition, they could help end neighborhood oil drilling.
“Why not just ban all drilling?” one pedestrian, who wished to remain anonymous, asked.
“We have to start somewhere,” the canvasser said.
What the canvasser didn’t say was that this referendum would do the opposite; it would overturn SB1137, a state bill that passed August 31, 2022, and was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in September.
Starting January 1, 2023, SB1137 creates a 3,200-foot buffer zone between new oil drilling and homes, schools, and other sensitive areas. In fact, as outlined in this LA Times editorial, the very act of making it to the ballot could stall this new law by two years.
VISION, a coalition of environmental justice organizations and allies had the following statement about the referendum:
“It’s Big Business and their millions of dollars vs. public health. It’s really that simple, but we’re not going back. We’re ready to defend every Californian’s right to a livable future where some company can’t just set up shop and pollute your family right in your own backyard.” —Kobi Naseck, Coalition Coordinator, VISION (Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods)
The setbacks bill finally passed this year, after our own State Senator Bob Hertzberg (who is running for county supervisor) blocked it two years in a row — first by voting no, and then by abstaining.
Supporting setbacks between oil production and drilling is not radical. In fact, California is one of the last oil-producing states in the country to have them. Texas has them (500 feet). North Dakota has them (1,000 feet). It’s established that living near new oil drilling is not good for your health. We’re talking nose bleeds, asthma, birth defects, cancer, and increased rates of death from COVID.
While the passage of the state bill was a big deal, it was years overdue, and just the beginning of the regulation needed to adequately protect public health.
The bill only applies to new oil drilling, which makes the oil industry’s talking points even more frustrating. At the Ralphs in Long Beach, I met a canvasser who was collecting petitions in front of a sign that said “Stop Higher Gas Prices.”
The canvasser said that he was employed by “Let the Voters Decide,” but when I reached out to the company, they denied working on the referendum. The talking points he used said “Ad paid for by Stop the Energy Shutdown, a coalition of small business owners, concerned taxpayers, local energy producers and the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA). Committee major funding from E & B Natural Resources, Signal Hill Petroleum, Crimson Resource Management.”
When I asked the canvasser what this was about, he said that this bill would ban all oil drilling (inaccurate), and cause gas prices to go up even higher (again, inaccurate).
First of all, this law only applies to new oil drilling (as much as we advocated for buffer zones near existing oil drilling). This is still important, and would block the expansion of oil projects across the state — including one such approved project in Long Beach which would create over 100 new wells on an Indigeous sacred site and natural wetland.
Secondly, oil prices are set at the international level. This is a global market, and our energy independence will not protect consumers from shocks to the global price.
“The erroneous link between this policy and gas prices is obvious given that the SB1137 hasn’t even gone into effect yet, and that other states, like Colorado, have instituted setbacks and haven’t seen a significant drop in production,” Naseck said.
Consumer Watchdog posted this report last week, outlining that the five main refiners of oil in California “made three to ten times more in profits per gallon off their West Coast operations from April through June than they did in the same period last year.”
Is it surprising that they are completely misleading the public?
- Petition title
- A sentence saying you want to be removed