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California

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill limiting oil and gas development

California Fossil Fuels
Pumpjacks operate at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield in 2015. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law intended to counter Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production on protected public land.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a law intended to counter Trump administration plans to increase oil and gas production on protected public land.

The measure bars any California leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas infrastructure to be built on state property. It makes it difficult for drilling to occur because federally protected areas are adjacent to state-owned land.

The law sends a “clear message to [President] Trump that we will fight to protect these beautiful lands for current and future generations,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), who introduced it.

It’s one of several new laws enacted by the governor in recent days.

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Newsom also signed a law that renames the California agency that regulates the oil and gas industry. Language in the measure states the mission of the newly christened Geologic Energy Management Division includes protecting public health and environmental quality.

The governor ordered the firing of the agency’s head in July, when it was still called the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Ken Harris was dismissed over an increase in state permits for hydraulic fracturing and allegations of conflicts of interest among senior government officials.

Republicans argued Harris’ firing was rash.

Newsom’s office also asked the state’s natural resources secretary to continue an investigation into reports that employees at the agency own stock in companies they regulate.

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Advocacy groups Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance released data over the summer showing regulators have been issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing at twice the rate this year when compared with 2018.

Newsom said the number of hydraulic fracturing permits had increased without his knowledge. California has sought to limit the controversial practice known as fracking.


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