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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

CA climate leaders fight to keep setbacks around oil and gas wells

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Thursday, April 25, 2024   

Leaders concerned about pollution and climate change are raising awareness about a ballot measure this fall on whether the state should mandate buffer zones around new oil and gas wells.

Voters will be asked to uphold or revoke Senate Bill 1173, which would require a 3,200-foot setback around any new well near schools, neighborhoods and hospitals.

Meghan Sahli-Wells, former mayor of Culver City and a leader with the group Elected Officials to Protect America, fought to phase out the Inglewood oil field and said no community should be a sacrifice zone.

"A study from Harvard found that in California, 34,000 people died in 2018, prematurely, from fossil fuel air pollution," Sahli-Wells pointed out. "These figures are three times higher than other studies."

The Stop the Energy Shutdown campaign, supported by the California Independent Petroleum Association, opposes the setback rule, arguing it could constrict local supply and cost jobs in the industry. A court put the bill on hold pending the outcome of the November election. A "yes" vote would keep the setbacks. A "no" vote would rescind them.

Clean energy advocates are also speaking out against companies operating older low-producing wells rather than pay to shut them down and seal them up properly.

Ahmad Zahra, a city council member in Fullerton, said Assembly Bill 2716 would incentivize their closure by charging companies $10,000 a day to operate so-called "stripper wells."

"We have over 40,000 oil wells currently sitting orphaned or idle, leaking methane and volatile organic compounds into the air, water and soil," Zahra emphasized.

Other states are following California's lead. Rep. Debbie Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, New Mexico, is sponsoring a bill to require setbacks near sensitive locations since more than 32,000 children in the state attend school within a mile of an oil and gas extraction site.

"Over 80 schools in northwestern New Mexico - the San Juan Basin and southeastern New Mexico, the Permian Basin - are within one mile of an oil and gas well," Sariñana noted. "Some schools are surrounded by dozens and even hundreds of wells within a single mile."

Disclosure: Elected Officials to Protect America contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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