Editorial: Oil drillers want to overturn California’s new health protections. Don’t let them.
It was inevitable. The California Senate passed, by a wide margin, a bill (SB 70) on May 8 to prevent oil drilling in the Golden State. This is the latest in a series of statewide ballot initiatives that have been approved by voters in Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
What’s in SB 70—unprecedented and dangerous? The measure would reverse a 2015 ruling by the state Supreme Court, which found that the current regulations for protecting children from exposure to oil and gas drilling chemicals are unconstitutional.
Those chemicals include chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be released from drilling operations during drilling, extraction or transportation. They cause cancer in human beings, animals, and plants.
To stop oil drilling in California, the state Legislature should stop the ballot initiative and take control over the issue.
The initiative was promoted by the oil sector, and it was financed by big money: $3 million from oil companies, $1 million from the University of California and $2 million from the California Republican Caucus.
If the proposition is allowed to go ahead, drilling will be regulated at the expense of the health and safety of Californians.
The proposal would give oil companies a license to drill everywhere. If this proposal passes and other states follow suit, California will end up regulating what is essentially a free-for-all.
The oil industry has proposed this onerous and costly legislation in every state in the union. California’s oil industry will be one of the worst hit—if not the worst—because of the impact on the state’s economy—and California’s reputation as a leader in health-related issues.
Some of the industry’s arguments for overturning Proposition 51 do not make sense.
The oil industry says that the state’s current regulations are confusing, difficult to navigate, burdensome and costly.
“They’ve put forth a list of 15 or 16 or 17 [state regulations] they want to do away with,” said John White, the president and CEO of the California Petroleum Council, which is not a member of the initiative but has been a major supporter of that movement.
Proposition 51 would prevent the state from adopting further regulations for oil and gas drilling.