California Proposes Ban on New Oil and Gas Drilling Near Schools, Homes, and Hospitals

State officials have called it one of the most aggressive steps in the US to protect public health and safety from the dangers of drilling.

A pump jacks draw crude oil from an oil field near homes in Signal Hill, California, just across the fence from residential houses.
Source: David McNew/Agence France-Presse

California’s oil and gas regulator on 21 October proposed that the state ban new oil drilling within 3,200 ft of schools, homes, and hospitals to protect public health in what would be the nation’s largest buffer zone between oil wells and communities.

It’s the latest effort by Democratic governor Gavin Newsom’s administration to wind down oil production in California, aligning him with environmental advocates pushing to curb the effects of climate change and against the powerful oil industry in the nation’s seventh-largest oil-producing state.

State officials called it one of the most aggressive steps in the nation, and perhaps the world, to protect public health and safety from the dangers of oil and gas drilling.

Studies show living near a drilling site can elevate risks of birth defects, cancer, respiratory problems, and other health problems. More than 2 million Californians live within 3,200 ft of oil drilling sites, primarily in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley.

“Extracting oil is a dirty business, and it’s had a real impact on Californians,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California’s secretary for environmental protection. “Often we frame it as it’s about air pollution, it’s about climate change; this is really about helping communities and community health near these facilities.”

The proposal comes in the wake of a massive oil spill that coated Southern California beaches earlier this month when an underwater pipeline burst. Federal investigators are examining whether a container ship snagged the pipeline earlier this year and dragged it on the seabed. The spill has prompted calls for the federal government to ban offshore drilling.

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