Should California Require Buffer Zones Around New Oil Wells? Voters May Be Asked Twice
A campaign for a statewide initiative to require buffer zones around new oil and gas wells raises the possibility that California voters could see two similar measures on the November 2024 ballot.
Environmental justice advocates have launched a campaign for a proposed statewide initiative to require health and safety buffer zones around new oil and gas wells, raising the possibility that California voters could see two similar measures on the November 2024 ballot.
If environmental groups gather enough signatures for their initiative to qualify, advocates said the result of the vote would override the outcome of a referendum oil interests already qualified for the same ballot. The referendum seeks to overturn SB 1137, a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in September banning new wells within 3,200 ft of schools, homes, and buildings open to the public.
The potential ballot measure, which is nearly identical to SB 1137, is the latest political maneuver by environmental advocates in an ongoing battle they’re waging alongside unions against business interests at the state Capitol. The groups contend corporations are intentionally misleading Californians and exploiting the state’s direct democracy process in order to stall and reverse state laws approved by the Democratic majority in Sacramento.
Instead of only running a campaign to convince Californians to reject the referendum backed by the oil industry—which would require a potentially confusing "yes" vote to preserve the buffer zones established by existing law—advocates for the well restrictions say it’s easier to launch an entirely separate ballot measure. Their initiative would ask voters if they want to ban new wells around neighborhoods and public buildings through a simple "yes" or "no" vote.