Despite Promises to Ban Fracking, Newsom Quietly Approved 12 New Permits Last Week – During a Pandemic

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In New Effort to Cover Up Permitting, Administration Fails to Alert Communities and Media

Los Angeles (June 9) – On Monday, June 1, while the world was caught up the global movement for black lives, Governor Newsom’s California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), the agency responsible for regulating oil and gas in California, quietly approved 12 new hydraulic fracturing permits to Aera Energy LLC for the Lost Hills Oil Field in Kern County. This brings the number of fracking permits issued since Governor Newsom lifted his pause on fracking permitting to 36, all issued during an unprecedented global pandemic. A backlog of 270 fracking permits remains to be reviewed by third-party contractor Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

In response, Food & Water Action California Director Alexandra Nagy issued the following statement:

Governor Newsom is further retreating from his campaign promises by quietly and shamefully approving new fracking – in the middle of a pandemic, and when he thought no one was paying attention. Newsom is proving to be another lapdog of the polluting oil industry, just like his predecessor Jerry Brown.

“Fracking poisons the air we breathe and the water we drink, making the permitting of this practice even more reprehensible during a global pandemic. If Newsom wants to be the health and environmental leader he so often claims to be, he needs to halt new fracking now, and begin immediately ramping down fossil fuel extraction in this state – period. Governor Newsom needs to think about the future generations, think of his own children and the world he wants to leave behind and ban fracking now.”

Fracking accounts for a significant portion of oil production in California — about 20 percent over the last decade. While campaigning for governor, Gavin Newsom wrote an article pledging to oppose fracking, apparently setting himself up to finally take on the oil industry after years of disastrous inaction from Governor Brown. The opposite has proven true, and shockingly, the oil industry has managed to win Newsom’s loyalty to their profits over public health. 

Compared to the initial twenty-four permits Newsom’s administration approved in March 2020 since requiring third-party review, no government or regulatory official contacted key stakeholders, environmental groups or community leaders about the twelve new fracking permits. Likewise, unlike the last time, the press was not notified of the new permits. 

Many legal experts contend that these fracking permits, like those issued earlier in the year, are illegal because they were approved based on an Environmental Impact Report that was thrown out by the California Fifth District Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled to reverse the oil and gas ordinance and EIR as well as hold off on any future issuance of permits, yet Newsom’s CalGEM continues to issue permits under this illegal report. 

Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dog]org, 917.363.6615

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