A bill authored by two state senators that sought a phased ending to fracking and cyclic steaming practices was shot down in the legislature last week, halting an ongoing conversation about the role of oil extraction in the state’s clean energy mindset.
The bill, Senate Bill 467, was co-authored by Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The legislation called for the state to prohibit the issuance of new or renewed permits for specific extraction methods starting in January 2022 and proposed a ban on all practices by January 2027. The bill also recommended a 2,500 foot-buffer zone between drilling locations and schools, homes and playgrounds.
The legislation did not receive enough votes in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water to advance on to the next stage during a hearing last week.
Though disappointed by the defeat, Sen. Limón said her ultimate goal was to bring a conversation to the Senate floor despite knowing it would be an uphill battle. Historically, a bill on fracking has never made it past the introduction phase in the state legislature.
“Walking into this, there was already a history and a precedent that this conversation basically would not move forward,” Sen. Limón told the News-Press. “I think the bill that we presented had a phased-out approach, and it wasn’t going to happen overnight.”
She continued, “Certainly more than anything what we were hoping for is that there would be a legislative review process, meaning that the conversation would be allowed to move forward and that we would be able to provide analysis, discussion and oversight and really work out with our colleagues what a phased-out approach of transition from fossil fuel reliance to a cleaner energy reliance would look like. And unfortunately, that’s what did not move forward.”
Those opposed to the bill raised questions about its relevance, citing a lack of interest in finding a way to transition from oil extraction to clean energy, Sen. Limón said.
Legislators also voiced concerns over the effect on oil workers and how transitioning to clean energy would impact employment.
In response, Sen. Limón said she remains committed to “ensuring that the workers are not left behind in any of these conversations,” and hopes in the future, workers will be willing to come to the table for further discussions on the shifting energy industry.
Though the committee lacked the “legislative appetite” for the bill, Sen. Limón does not see this as the end of the discussion. In fact, she said the conversation is already happening among city, county and municipal officials statewide.
“While the conversation may not be moving forward in the form of a legislative bill, I think the conversation is happening all around us,” Sen. Limón said, pointing to cities and counties, including Santa Barbara County, that are prioritizing clean energy.
“You’re watching cities, and you’re watching counties have the discussion independent of where the state may land,” she continued. “There are many different ways to tackle climate change. This was very specific to the fracking and cyclic steaming and also the (2,500 foot) setback. I think there will be ongoing conversations of the broad elements in the future, but I think that these two elements that I identified for the time being, there’s just not a pathway for them.”
As for future bills, Sen. Limón said it is too soon to tell whether or not she will author another piece of fracking legislation in the future. But one thing is certain: She remains committed to staying involved in conversations that will benefit her constituents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
“No matter this being a defeat, it’s a temporary defeat,” Sen. Limón said. “There’s so much additional work to do on behalf of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in the state legislature. I just want to be clear: This is not the end of the important work that has to happen for our county.”