California Governor Approved 12 New Fracking Permits

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Is Governor Newsom saying one thing and doing another?

California Governor Newsom approved 12 new fracking permits for Chevron right before the Fourth of July weekend. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit California, Newsom has approved a total of 48 fracking permits. In November, Governor Newsom put a moratorium on fracking in California. The latest permits mark the third time he broke the moratorium.

New oil well permits under Governor Newsom increased by 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 through April 4, compared to the first quarter of 2019. During the first quarter of 2020, the Newsom administration issued 1,623 permits. Since taking office, Newsom has issued 6,168 permits. The locations for about 10 percent of the permits issued during the first quarter of 2020 are within 2,500 feet of houses, hospitals, schools, daycares, or nursing facilities.

While running for office, Newsom said, “The fossil-fuel era is ending, and California is not interested in the boom-or-bust oil economy.” Fast forward to 2020, and he is a champion of the oil industry.

Fracking, air pollution, and COVID-19

People living in regions with high pollution levels are more likely to die from COVID-19, a recently published study found. Researchers looked at over 3,000 counties across the U.S. and compared levels of small particulate air pollution levels with COVID-19 deaths. What they found is that people who live for decades in counties with high levels of small particulate air pollution are eight percent more likely to die from COVID-19. “The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” the researchers wrote.

Senior study author Francesca Dominici said in a statement that counties with higher levels of small particulate air pollution levels “will be the ones that have higher numbers of hospitalizations, higher numbers of deaths, and where many of the resources should be concentrated.”

California cities topped the list of short-term particle pollution in the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report. The first three cities on the list are all California cities and all are located in either the San Joaquin Valley or coastal areas where fracking in California occurs.

In the State of the Air’s two other categories, year-round particle pollution and ozone, California cities topped the list. Each California city on the lists is located in either the San Joaquin Valley or coastal areas. “The two largest oil-producing regions in California—the San Joaquin and South Coast air basins—are notorious for having some of the worst ozone and particulate pollution in the nation that threatens the health of local residents,” according to a 2019 report by Last Chance Alliance.

As of July 22, California’s COVID-19 cases surpassed the state of New York. That same week, a hospital in Porterville in the San Joaquin Valley declared an internal disaster due to COVID-19 hospitalizations. Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo, the vice president of patient care and chief nurse executive at Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville told a local news station, “We sort of just hit that wall where suddenly we didn’t have enough nurses to staff even our unmanned beds, so we did declare an internal disaster.”

“Regardless of where oil and gas wells and stimulations are permitted, near or close to Frontline Communities, these wells all degrade the regional air quality of the San Joaquin Valley. The San Joaquin Valley has some of the worst air quality in the country,” said Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator for FracTracker, in a statement.

What you can do

There is something you can do to make your voice heard about fracking in the golden state. Sign the petition urging Governor Newsom to phase out oil production in California.


Energy & Economics