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With New Permits, Newsom Ramps Up Fracking in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency has approved 12 new permits for Chevron to conduct hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Lost Hills Oil Field in Kern County.

The authorizations — issued late Thursday afternoon, just before the holiday weekend — will allow Chevron to frack these wells 168 times.

“It’s outrageous that Gov. Newsom is handing out fracking permits during a pandemic that disproportionately harms polluted communities,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The governor needs to stop recklessly approving fracking and new oil and gas drilling. Instead of restarting fracking in areas already suffering from dirty air, Newsom should direct oil companies to start plugging these dangerous wells to create jobs and move us away from polluting fossil fuels.”

Newsom ended a moratorium on fracking permits in April when the California Geologic Energy Management Division approved 24 new permits for Aera Energy LLC. Including Chevron’s new permits, Newsom has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since ending the moratorium.

Because each permit allows an operator to frack the same well multiple times, the actual number of fracking events authorized is 360. The fracking will occur in Kern County, which already suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the nation.

Newsom has also approved drilling permits for more than 1,400 new oil and gas wells so far this year. According to a California Council on Science and Technology report, it would cost more than $9.2 billion to properly plug California’s existing oil and gas wells, and operators have not set aside nearly enough money to pay for this legally required cleanup. On Thursday, 12 of those new drilling permits went to California Resources Corporation, even though multiple reports state that the company will soon be forced to file for bankruptcy.

“Approving these permits is especially dangerous now, after multiple studies have shown air pollution increases our vulnerability to coronavirus,” Kretzmann said. “Each new well and fracking event is another step backwards for public health and climate change.”

Studies have linked fracking and oil extraction to a variety of air pollution problems, including increased smog levels. Researchers have found increased rates of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases in places with higher air pollution.

In June, the Center submitted one of more than 40,000 public comments calling for the state’s oil and gas regulator to adopt a health and safety buffer that would require a minimum distance of 2,500 feet between oil and gas operations and sensitive receptors such as homes, schools, and hospitals. The Newsom administration has yet to release a set of proposed health and safety regulations.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

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