By Andrew Sheeler, SACRAMENTO BEE

October 5, 2021

After an oil pipeline spilled more than 100,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean in federal waters off the coast of Orange County this weekend, the group Consumer Watchdog is re-upping its call for Gov. Gavin Newsom to cease issuing both offshore and onshore oil drilling permits.

“This current spill makes it clear like never before that there is no such thing as safe proximity to oil drilling,” said Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker in a statement. “Governor Newsom must stop issuing both offshore and onshore permits immediately and set a barrier of 2,500 feet between vulnerable communities and oil operations if his own oil and gas supervisor won’t.” 

The group points out that since taking office, Newsom has dispensed 138 oil permits for operations in state waters, including five new drilling permits and 133 permits to perform work on existing offshore wells. 

The governor has been even more prolific with onshore oil permits, issuing more than 9,000 drilling permits since taking office at the start of 2019, according to Consumer Watchdog. 

More than 2 million Californians live within half a mile of an oil well, while 7 million live within a mile of one. 

Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance are among a coalition of groups calling on Newsom to issue a mandatory 2,500-foot setback between oil drilling operations and communities. Up to one mile would be preferable based on the evidence, they argue. 

Erin Mellon, speaking on behalf of the governor’s office, issued the following statement in response to a Sacramento Bee inquiry. 

“The state is working closely with the responsible parties, the federal government and locals in their response to the oil spill off the coast of Orange County. As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities. Destructive offshore drilling practices sacrifice our public health, the economy, and our environment. California has not granted new offshore leases for oil production in over fifty years and Governor Newsom has directed CARB to analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction by 2045. California will continue to lead the way to transition away from these harmful practices that cause immediate damage today and in the future,” Mellon said.