Facing tight squeeze, Calif. oil industry swings back at state’s latest rules

California now requires oil fields have a hefty, 3,200-foot setback from residential areas or gathering spaces.

A controversial requirement that California oilfields be thousands of feet away from residential or gathering space is already ruffling feathers with the state’s energy sector.

Now, it could be headed to the 2024 ballot.


The big picture: Contentious new rules have been implemented that are forcing oilfield operators to conduct any work at least 3,200 feet away from any residential space or gathering place. This issue has caused Kern County residents to be forced from their homes due to oil companies buying out their land for business.

  • Senate Bill 1137, which was implemented Friday, caused major frustration and objection within the state’s oil industry which led to signatures being gathered to send the bill to the 2024 ballot for the people to vote on.
  • SB 1137 also addresses pollution control in wells within the setback areas. Health is the primary factor in this issue as science has related oil and gas wells in close proximity with heart diseases, asthma and even adverse birth outcomes.

What’s Next:It remains unclear if the buffer will remain in place, but for now state oilfield operators must comply with state law. An industry group is preparing to halt the certification of new rules next month as they have gathered enough signatures to take it to the ballot in 2024.

  • State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk issued a notice to the state’s oilfield operators stating failure to comply results in enforcement of action.
  • Some exceptions are made for non-fossil-fuel operations and abandonment of wells. Ntuk notes that any new oilfield work must have a letter of intention filed under the new rules no matter the location.
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