A new state law that would have prevented oil operations from being established within 3,200 feet of sensitive areas like schools, hospitals and parks will have to wait to go into effect until voters can weigh in, as a referendum on the law was approved for the ballot Friday afternoon.
Senate Bill 1137 was authored by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez and would have prohibited new oil activity from occurring within the buffer zones, something the oil industry opposed. Gonzalez, who represents Long Beach in the Legislature, blamed the industry for misleading voters who signed the petition to block the law from going into effect until the 2024 election cycle.
Here we go. #SB1137 – health protection zones for oil drilling overturned today! Why?— Lena Gonzalez (@SenGonzalez_33) February 4, 2023
• paid people $20/signature to lie
• lied about protecting people when they’re protecting their own profits
• continues to pollute our communities
We still fight! pic.twitter.com/kdMwn2i36o
Gonzalez said signature-gatherers were paid $20 per signature to “lie” to voters in order to protect their profits.
“We still fight,” Gonzalez said in a tweet.
The referendum effort had come under scrutiny last year with reported allegations that signature-gatherers were spreading misinformation.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Rock Zierman, the CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, said that the referendum would give voters a say on the law that was “rushed through last minute with little review and no scientific backing.”
“Senate Bill 1137 threatens the livelihoods of over 50,000 hardworking Californians and forces the state to rely on more expensive, imported foreign oil that is completely exempt from California’s strict environmental laws,” Zierman said.
Over 978,000 signatures were turned into state election officials in late December, and on Friday the secretary of state’s office announced that enough of the signatures were verified for it to qualify for the ballot. The issue could be before voters in the 2024 election, or possibly before—but that would require lawmakers to call a costly special election.
Long Beach city management came out against the law in December, saying that it could cost the city upward of $20 million per year in revenue that it gets from oil operations in the city. The city’s oil islands and other wells would likely be affected, and because the law affects any oil activity that requires a new permit, it could speed up the city’s planned phase-out of oil by 2035.
The city’s proposed state legislative agenda, the outline of what it will lobby for in Sacramento this year, includes language for financial help to fund that phase-out. The city’s estimated share of the projected $1.2 billion in well abandonment costs in Long Beach is $154 million. The city said it had about $70 million set aside as of December.
Long Beach says new oil well setback law could have dramatic financial effect on city
Pro-oil petition drive in California under question