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CA Lawmakers Tackle Energy, Environmental Justice Issues

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A state Senate committee is considering two bills today to reduce air and water pollution from oil and gas facilities. (Leonid Ikan/Adobestock)
A state Senate committee is considering two bills today to reduce air and water pollution from oil and gas facilities. (Leonid Ikan/Adobestock)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
April 13, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Two bills to combat pollution from the oil and gas industry will get hearings today in Sacramento, but clean-air advocates say they don't quite go far enough.

The state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water will consider Senate Bill 47, which would greatly expand the funding for plugging old wells.

Carmen Ramirez, Ventura County Supervisor, said the abandoned sites are a threat to public health.

"Abandoned wells could leach into the ground and potentially hurt our ability to drink the water that we depend on," Ramirez contended.

The committee will also consider Senate Bill 467, which would halt new permits for fracking starting next year and ban it altogether as of 2027.

It also would require a 2,500-foot setback between oil and gas facilities and homes, schools and hospitals.

Opponents of the bill say it could result in higher gas prices and cost industry jobs.

Ramirez argued environmental justice must take priority.

"It's pollution, and it's only in these poor communities of color that have to suck up all the dirty air and deal with any leaks or potential explosions," Ramirez pointed out. "And it's just time for us to provide a healthier environment."

Monica Brown, Solano County Supervisor, said the bill should include funds to monitor the air quality in the communities downwind of the refineries, which are primarily near Bakersfield, Long Beach and in the Bay Area.

"It is apparent that these refineries are focused on their bottom line, not the health and well-being of the communities they are located in," Brown asserted. "I call upon our state leaders to limit emissions from refineries."

Advocates complain much of what the refineries produce is exported overseas because domestic demand for petroleum products has been going down for decades.

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