Senators Wiener and Limón Introduce Legislation to Ban Fracking and Other Destructive Oil Extraction Methods and to Require Distance Between Oil Extraction and Homes and Schools

February 17, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) introduced Senate Bill 467, which halts the issuance or renewal of permits for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steaming, and water and steam flooding starting January 1, 2022, and then prohibits these extraction methods entirely starting January 1, 2027.

SB 467 will also prohibit all new or renewed permits for oil and gas extraction within 2,500 feet of any homes, schools, healthcare facilities or long-term care institutions such as dormitories or prisons, by January 1, 2022. Oil extraction near where people live, go to school, etc., is extremely harmful to people’s health. Oil extraction overwhelmingly occurs near where people of color and low income people live, causing significant negative health impacts. (The setbacks portion of the bill will be amended into SB 467 in 30 days, for administrative reasons.)

These production and extraction methods have been shown to pose significant risks to the environment and public health, particularly when conducted within 2,500 feet of human activity. The legislation also contains provisions to facilitate a transition of oil workers to jobs in well remediation and sealing.

These oil extraction methods pose significant risks to the environment and public health, and threaten California’s economic future. SB 467 comes several months after Governor Gavin Newsom called on the Legislature to ban fracking. As climate change poses an existential risk to our planet and our state, it’s critical we act quickly to end the most environmentally harmful oil extraction practices, to protect public health, and to move aggressively toward a 100% clean energy economy.

When an oil or gas well is drilled, only around 5 to 15 percent of the oil is recoverable without additional production and extraction methods that further stimulate the well. These additional methods can include hydraulic fracturing, acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steam operations, and water and steam flooding. These methods would be banned under SB 467, as they pose serious danger to the environment and our water supply, and cause a myriad of negative health impacts on nearby communities and on our state at large.

While the environmental and health effects vary depending on method of oil extraction, the impacts of these practices can cause an increase in earthquakes and seismicity, surface and groundwater contamination, oil spills or contaminated wastewater, and increased occurrences of sinkholes. The resulting health impacts have an outsized impact on the immediate surrounding communities. These oil extraction methods can cause serious and life-threatening complications such as asthma, congenital heart defects, respiratory complications, chronic migraines, and a host of pregnancy complications including lower birth weights, a lower infant health index, and even an increased risk of miscarriage.

Banning these harmful oil extraction methods is a critical environmental justice issue, especially as the most impacted frontline communities living near these oil and gas wells are often lower-income communities of color without access to quality healthcare. Nearly 7.5 million Californians live within one mile of an oil or gas well, while over 2 million live within one mile of an operational well. These communities suffer particularly due to increased air pollution. This pollution is partially caused by chemicals used during these extraction methods, including but not limited to: benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and formaldehyde, all of which can cause cancer. Further, fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, is often found in increased concentration surrounding oil and gas wells, and is associated with premature mortality, chronic bronchitis, headaches, and nosebleeds, among various other heart and lung issues. Beyond air pollution, residing near oil or gas extraction can lead to noise and light pollution, causing fatigue, depression and irritability.

Because of climate change, California has seen years of extreme drought, costing the state billions and killing tens of thousands of agriculture-related jobs. These oil extraction methods utilize an enormous amount of water, which is an increasingly precious resource. In 2014 in California, with hydraulic fracturing alone, oil producers used nearly 70 million gallons of water. Additionally, water used for enhanced oil extraction is likely to never re-enter the usable water supply due to the levels of contamination these practices cause. Water prices will only continue to rise due to competition from oil producers as our water supply becomes scarcer, which has already become a problem in states like Colorado. Given the pressing nature of our climate crisis, our state must end these harmful practices before it’s too late.

SB 467 further directs the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to identify oil and gas workers who have lost their jobs and offer incentives to well remediation contractors to prioritize the hiring of these identified former workers.

SB 467 is sponsored by the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) and VISION. It is jointly authored by Senators Scott Wiener and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and is co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymembers Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose).

“Climate change is not a theoretical future threat — it’s an existential threat to our community and is having devastating impacts right now,” said Senator Wiener. “We have no time to waste, and California must lead on climate action, including transitioning to a 100% clean energy economy. Extracting massive amounts of oil — particularly with destructive techniques such as fracking — is totally inconsistent with California’s commitment to a sustainable climate future. And drilling for oil near where people live or go to school is deeply harmful to community health, particularly for the communities of color near which oil extraction is most likely to be located. It’s time to transition away from these oil extraction methods, protect our community’s health and water supply, and create a brighter future for our state and our planet.”

"Fracking, neighborhood drilling, and other dangerous drilling practices have a real impact on the health of residents who live in Kern County and other areas of the state where drilling is prevalent,” said Ingrid Brostrom, the Assistant Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “Residents are tired of being asked to sacrifice their health to help maintain the profits of a dying industry. This bill protects health and creates pathways for fossil fuel workers who are being impacted by the state's declining oil industry."

"Extreme oil extraction measures are just that: extreme,” said Lauren Cullum, Policy Advocate at Sierra Club California. "They create environmental and public health damage that can't be restored. California has learned this lesson the hard way. Now state leaders must stop allowing expansion of fracking and other extreme oil extraction. This bill will save lives, protect water sources, and cut air pollution without risk to the economy."

“What this bill aims to do is simple: protect people’s drinking water and air from risky oil extraction while providing a piece of the just transition puzzle for affected workers,” said Tara Messing, Staff Attorney for the Environmental Defense Center. “This bill is focused on the most extreme and dangerous forms of unconventional oil production. Last year, the Governor signaled it was time to stop this type of oil development and the legislature has now come up with a solution.  This bill would not only be a win for our environment and climate, but also for the health of our communities.”

“This bill boldly tackles head-on the need to prioritize the phasing out of the types of drilling that are directly harming California communities,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney for NRDC.  “It is time that California’s leaders take on the state’s behemoth oil industry.” 

"SB 467 will dramatically advance California’s efforts as a national leader in transitioning away from oil extraction with important attention to transitioning workers and communities impacted by these changes,” said Nora Privatera, a member of the 350 Bay Area Action Legislative Team. “It is exactly the kind of forward-looking legislation to need to help guide the critical process of eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels, and is necessary to create the sustainable and just future we all want and deserve.”

“The scientific evidence is clear,” said Dr. Karina Maher, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician and a member of Climate Health Now. “Oil and gas extraction, especially hydraulic fracturing and other destructive methods, cause heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, cancer, miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects. It causes people to die before their time. All of us are affected by this. Those who suffer the most are low income communities and communities of color living closest to these wells. We see the health impacts of oil and gas drilling in our exam rooms every day.

Medical professionals across the state are speaking out in support of SB 467:

“As a Sacramento physician and father, I staunchly support the legislation proposed by Senators Wiener and Limón to ban fracking and other destructive oil extraction measures.  Californians and our children can ill afford the additional contamination of our finite ground water, release of methane into our air, and increased birth defects, cancer, and asthma associated with these techniques.  Fracking companies are currently financially unprofitable; we should not mortgage the future of our children on these economically and ecologically failed extractive industries.” 

-William C. Pevec, MD, Professor Emeritus, Vascular Surgery at University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

“On behalf of my pediatric patients, I'm very concerned about the ill-effects of fracking and other extraction methods. Our children have already suffered the health effects of these methods through preterm births, birth defects, miscarriage, cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma, depression. Our land, water and air have been contaminated by harmful chemicals from these sites, penetrating our water and crops. We need to stop fracking now, and choose the cleaner and safer options for our children and our planet.”

-Priyanka Fernandes, MD, MBBS, MPH, Preventive Medicine Fellowship Director, UCLA, Pediatric Infectious Disease and Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialist 

“For too long black and brown communities have borne the brunt of the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction.  Communities in Los Angeles have been demanding for many years that we establish health and safety buffer zones around oil extractions sites. We know that impacts from oil drilling can be felt as far as 3 miles and the closer one lives to a site the more risk of exposure to highly hazardous chemicals.  It is a health imperative for the State of California to stop drilling where we live, work, play and pray.”  

-Martha Dina Arguello, Executive Director Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles

“Drilling for fossil fuels, particularly by fracking, poisons those close by, especially those most vulnerable such as babies and pregnant women.  We are destroying our planet, and our health, by burning too much fossil fuel already.  Let’s stop ruining lives by drilling for something that will only hurt us more if we use it.  We need to end all fossil fuel extraction right now, especially fracking.”

-Marc Futernick, MD, California Hospital Medical Center, Regional Medical Director

Board of Directors, Chairman, VEP Healthcare

“As a Monterey County resident, parent, and clinician, I am writing to appreciate and support your proposed legislation to ban fracking. I am a long-standing advocate for integrated solutions that heal the broken relationships between people and nature and among our communities which are plagued by both social and ecological injustices. This legislation is a textbook example of this idea being translated into action, and together with our rapidly growing Climate Health Now community, we look forward to normalizing and scaling these kinds of solutions for people and planet at all levels ranging from local to global.”

-Nathaniel Uchtmann, MD, JD, Monterey County

“Mounting evidence demonstrates the potential of fracking to worsen the risk of birth defects and asthma, and cause hormonal disruptions in children, especially those in minority or low-income communities. Instead of this unconscionable assault on our children’s health, we must invest in cleaner energy solutions for a healthier future for our kids. I thank and applaud Senators Wiener and Limón for their efforts to ban fracking.”

-Aditi Mhaskar, MD, Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine Fellow at UCLA

“I am a retired Public Health Educator, having worked for decades at Ventura County Public Health in tobacco and smoking policy.  I am very attuned to air pollution issues and the related environmental justice issues in public policy. My husband and I lost our  home in the 2017 Thomas Fire, in a Ventura foothills neighborhood that had been untouched by fire for the entire 40 years of its existence.  We decided to rebuild without any fossil fuel use.  "Natural" gas causes high levels of air contaminants inside the home, the concentration of which in the home can exceed outdoor air pollution standards.  Building homes that do not use fossil fuels is the wave of the future, a healthier future for the generations to come. Why allow the continuation of such risky and OBSOLETE fuel extraction such as fracking?  It's a myth that it "burns clean"!”

-Nan Waltman, MPH, Ventura, CA

“As a UCLA pediatrician I am passionate about improving the health of California's future generations.  Fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods have been proven to increase the risk of a wide variety of health conditions while also being a significant contributor to climate change. This legislation has my strongest support."

-Gregory Dann, MD, Pediatrics, UCLA