California tightens oil and gas regulation but stops short of a fracking ban

Good morning, California.

“These are necessary steps to strengthen oversight of oil and gas extraction as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources. This transition cannot happen overnight; it must advance in a deliberate way to protect people, our environment, and our economy.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement on new oil extraction regulations.

  • Catherine Reheis-Boyd of Western States Petroleum: “California’s environmental regulations already lead the world, and the further study of the best science and real data about production practices in our state will only reconfirm that leadership.”

Big changes in oil production

A pump jack south of King City

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration Tuesday announced broad changes in the regulation of oil production, amping up health and safety rules and placing a moratorium on high-pressure steam injections—a common oilfield practice that can be dangerous to workers and foul water sources.

The moves are part of an overhaul of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in what is the sixth-largest oil-producing state. As part of that, the division will get a new name, the Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM.

The announcement’s language was striking, aligning the management of fossil fuels in the state with larger carbon-reduction goals, and presaging the gradual ramping down of the industry in California.

Newsom stopped short of banning hydraulic fracturing but did add oversight:

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory experts will review all pending fracking permits. 
  • The Department of Finance will audit the fracking process.

Fracking is not common in California, unlike steam injection, which is used extensively in older wells, particularly in Kern County.

Some environmentalists praised the move, and representatives of California’s oil region protested.

  • Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, who represents Kern County, said the announcement “simply means the Golden State will rely on more of our oil supply shipped in from foreign countries whose environmental policies and humanitarian treatment are far below California’s standards.”

Bet on a gambling measure in 2020

Expect a vote on a gambling expansion in 2020

California voters could be asked to decide whether to approve the first major gambling expansion since they legalized Nevada-style casinos on Indian reservations in 2000.

Tribes that own some of the state’s most successful casinos announced last week that they intend to offer an initiative for the November ballot that would authorize them to offer sports wagering, craps and roulette.

Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Merced Democrat, chair legislative committees that oversee gambling and have been working on a joint proposal to place a separate measure before voters in November 2020. 

  • Dodd: “Frankly, other than horse racing, this is all about tribal interests … That’s their right to do. We need to look at all the different options. We need to look at it more broadly.”
  • Gray: “I certainly respect tribes’ interests, but my job is to put something forward that protects all California, all communities, that brings in tax revenue that can benefit all Californians.”

Tribes working with horse racing tracks—but not card rooms, tribes’ rival—offered an initiative would allow people to legally bet on professional and college sports, so long as they place bets at tribes’ casinos or racetracks. 

  • The initiative would permit craps and roulette at tribes’ casinos.
  • The initiative would set a 10% tax on sports wagering, potentially generating “tens of millions” annually. This year’s state budget exceeds $210 billion.

Besides a Dodd-Gray proposal, lawmakers who represent cities that depend on revenue from card rooms no doubt will have ideas, too.

An unwanted consequence

Juul Labs co-founders James Monsees, left, and Adam Bowen (Photo Bay Area News Group)

The intended goal of UC San Francisco’s Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive is, as its name implies, to expose the tobacco industry. 

Its 90 million-plus pages includes internal tobacco industry documents unearthed in the states’ 1990s litigation against the tobacco industry. 

Researchers, students and anyone else have access to the online public library, no matter their intent.

Among the users: Two Stanford University students who envisioned a high-tech nicotine-delivery device and ultimately founded the e-cigarette industry-dominating Juul Labs, Inc. 

  • Juul co-founder James Monsees once explained: “It became a very intriguing space for us to investigate because we had so much information that you wouldn’t normally be able to get in most industries. And we were able to catch up, right, to a huge, huge industry in no time. And then we started building prototypes.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cited that statement in his suit earlier this week accusing Juul of wrongdoing in causing what Becerra called a “public health epidemic.”

Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco medical school professor and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education:

  • “It is not the thing we had in mind, but we put the documents out there for everybody. It’s too bad they used it for evil.”

Monsees and his partner, Adam Bowen, visited Glantz when they were students. Glantz recalls warning them: 

  • Smokers would use vape devices and still smoke, and kids would get hooked.

An unwanted distinction

Bay Area News Group file photo

Recent mass shootings at Saugus High School, at a home in Fresno and of a family in Paradise Hills left 11 people dead, including two of the gunmen, 10 people injured, and countless others affected.

California gained the unwanted distinction of leading the nation in the grim statistic of having more mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured in 2019, at 41, followed by Illinois at 37, the Washington D.C.-based Gun Violence Archive reports.

California also leads in the number injured, at 159 to Illinois’ 155. Texas leads the nation in the number of deaths from mass shootings so far in 2019, at 68, to California’s 63.

  • As of Tuesday, 420 people have died and 1,500 been injured in 372 mass shootings nationwide in 2019, as defined by the Gun Violence Archive.

Commentary at CalMatters

Kevin Kiley, Republican assemblyman from Rocklin: The job of writing all-important descriptions for ballot measures is entrusted to the partisan elected attorney general of California. Our current attorney general, Democrat Xavier Becerra, is only the latest in a line of attorneys general who have exercised this power without even a pretense of impartiality, instead skewing ballot language to lead voters towards their preferred political outcome. That must change.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the state to stop buying cars from automakers that won’t agree to the state’s emission rules. But it’s just symbolic huffing and puffing.

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