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Newsom Announces Plan to Phase Out Fracking

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a directive via the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division on April 23 to stop issuing hydraulic fracturing permits by January 2024. Additionally, he requested that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) look into phasing out oil extraction in California by 2045 at the latest. 

The 2045 target will be included in California’s AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan, which is a “comprehensive, multi-year program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California” that aims to get California to carbon neutrality by 2045. 

This new directive builds on an executive order Newsom made in September 2020, which called for an end to fracking, acceleration of California’s transition away from gasoline powered cars and trucks, and reduction in demand for fossil fuels. 

“The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” Newsom said. “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”

The directive came a few days after an announcement by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) regarding the release of two independent studies that looked into the greenhouse gas emissions. The studies analyzed different policy options and will influence the state’s new 2045 goals for the reduction of the demand and supply of fossil fuels. 

The studies were contracted by CalEPA with the University of California to look at both the demand and supply elements of achieving carbon neutrality. They will also be considered by the California Air Resources Board as they prepare to launch an update to the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan

While many activists and advocates for environmental legislation see the directive as a step in the right direction, there have also been concerns expressed that the plan doesn’t move fast enough or include enough environmental justice protections. 

“While we believe an earlier end date is appropriate, at least having a set end date will trigger the long-overdue conversation about what a transition away from oil looks like,” Sens. Monique Limón and Scott Wiener said in a joint statement following the announcement. 

In early April, Limón and Wiener introduced state bill SB 467 as a response to what they viewed as inadequate action from Newsome on banning fracking. The bill included plans to phase out fracking and other kinds of oil and gas extraction by 2022. It also required a mandatory minimum distance of 2,500 feet between oil and gas extraction sites and homes, schools, and hospitals, known as setbacks, which is a provision that environmental justice activists have been fighting for years

The bill failed in a hearing in the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on April 13, 10 days before Newsom’s announcement. 

“We welcome this historic announcement that we need a just transition away from oil,” Executive Director of LA Chapter’s Physicians for Social Responsibility Martha Dina Argüello said in a press release before following up with a critique of the directive. “Communities need immediate relief to the health assaults of oil and gas extraction in the form of an immediate 2500 foot health and safety buffer. Justice delayed is justice denied.”


Eva Cluff is a Staff Writer for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ecluff@uci.edu.