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California proposes buffer between oil drilling, homes

·2-min read

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration on Thursday announced a proposal to ban new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of sites such as schools and homes. Here's a look at the details:

THE BUFFER

The 3,200-foot zone between new drilling and community sites would be the largest in the nation if adopted. California currently has no statewide rule for how close oil and gas wells can be to homes, schools, hospitals, daycares and other places where people live and work. Colorado has the nation's largest buffer zone right now, at 2000 feet (610 meters).

It wouldn't apply to existing wells in that zone.

POLLUTION CONTROLS

Wells already operating within that zone would have to comply with new pollution controls. Administration officials say they hope those rules will prompt some well operators to close down.

One of those controls is a leak detection and response plan that would require operators to detect for chemicals such as methane or hydrogen sulfide with an alarm system. Operators would have to suspend use of the well or production facility until a leak is corrected and the state's oil regulator gives the OK to resume. They must notify the community if the leak isn't stopped with 48 hours.

Other controls include preventing and recovering the release of vapors, keeping sound and lighting low between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., and conducting water sampling.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

A 15-member panel of experts say they chose 3,200 feet because its nearly one kilometer and studies show evidence of harm within that distance.

They pointed to peer-reviewed studies, conducted in California and other oil producing states like Pennsylvania and Texas, that show spending extended time near oil and gas wells can increase the risk of negative birth outcomes respiratory conditions. The Western States Petroleum Association, an oil and gas interest group, alleged the panel was stacked to achieve the outcome Newsom wanted.

JUST A START

The proposal by the California Geologic Energy Management Division, the state's oil regulator, is a draft that is subject to change. The final rule won't take effect until at least 2023.

It's the culmination of a process Newsom started in 2019.

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