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Report: CRC’s failure could leave California taxpayers with $900 million burden

by Gabby Brown, Sierra Club


Highlights

  • New analysis from the Sierra Club shows that natural gas exploration company California Resources Corporation (CRC) may leave California taxpayers with $900 million in costs for the remediation of thousands of abandoned oil wells
  • CRC has ownership interest in nearly 18,000 oil wells that can cause greenhouse gas emissions, soil and groundwater contamination, and deteriorating property values if left unplugged 
  • Oil and gas companies are responsible for covering the cost of plugging unused wells, but as many fossil fuel companies experience bankruptcy and can no longer afford to pay for plugging, taxpayers must bear the burden of the cost
  • The Sierra Club’s report, “The Risk of Unplugged Wells for California’s Taxpayers; California Resources Corporation – A Case Study,” illustrates that it is unlikely that CRC will have any revenues set aside for closure obligations by 2025
  • The state-run agency, California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM), is responsible for ensuring that CRC satisfies its obligations but has not intervened in the bankruptcy process 
  • Monica Embrey, Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, says it’s imperative that the state hold CRC accountable for oil well clean up:

“CRC may be the first major oil company to fail in California, but it certainly won’t be the last. It’s critical that the state use its authority to protect workers, communities, and our climate by holding these companies accountable for their massive well closure obligations.” 


Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read More: https://www.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2020/10/new-report-crc-s-failure-could-leave-california-taxpayers-900-million-burden

Opinion: Methane leaks in the Central Valley may be worsening COVID-19 cases

by Karen L. Jones, California Health Report


Highlights

  • According to the California Department of Public Health, the death rate due to chronic lower respiratory disease is 12 times higher in the San Joaquin Valley compared to the rest of the state and 14 times higher than the national rate
  • The intense pollution in the region can have severe effects on Valley residents who contract COVID-19
  • Kern County does not meet federal ozone and particulate matter standards due to the pollution caused by the region’s petroleum industry among other factors such as unplugged oil wells that leak methane
  • There are reports of several wells leaking at rates over 200,000 percent above the EPA average estimate for western U.S. gas wells
  • Methane leaks detected by using airborne infrared imaging sensors show that nearly 4 billion cubic feet of methane may have been released in Kern County oil fields
  • The gathering of methane plume imagery could help locate and plug methane leaks in oil fields

Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://www.calhealthreport.org/2020/08/18/opinion-methane-leaks-in-the-central-valley-may-be-worsening-covid-19-cases/

Committee For A Better Arvin / Comite para un Arvin mejor

Tired of wells that threaten residents’ health, a small California town takes on the oil industry


Highlights

  • In the Central Valley of California, exhaust from semi-trucks, oil and gas fumes, plus pesticides from the agricultural sector are trapped in the valley, creating mass pollution that creates severe health problems
    • Health effects include asthma, respiratory illnesses, preterm birth, low birth weight, and cancer 
  • Pollution caused by drilling sites disproportionately affect neighborhoods that are predominately occupied by Black, Indigenous, People of Color 
  • Though implementing setbacks or buffers that separate drilling sites from homes, schools, and hospitals effectively reduces health risks, California has no mandates or laws requiring these buffers
  • Oil industry giants such as the Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron have spent $9.9 million and $7.5 million on lobbying this legislative season
    • These same companies successfully advocated for streamlined approval of new oil projects with little environmental review
  • A community group in the Central Valley town of Arvin, named Committee for a Better Arvin, have taken on the oil industry in their community 
      • In 2014 a leaky pipeline had caused an air sampling from the inside of homes on a street in Arvin to have levels of toxic gas 13 times higher than deemed safe by the EPA 
      • With help from other smaller community groups plus big environmental groups, Committee for a Better Arvin sued for better regulations in their community
  • In Los Angeles County over 1.5 million people live within 2,500 feet of an operational oil well
  • AB 345 would create setbacks of 2,500ft, being the first mandate for buffers in the state
  • The bill would not stall oil production but would help frontline communities avoid toxic levels of pollution 

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030. This bold target requires accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use.


Read More: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02082020/california-big-oil-environmental-health

AB 345 will fight CA oil industry’s environmental racism

by Jane Fonda and Don Martin, The Sacramento Bee


Highlights

  • Politicians that allow pollution in our state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, which are disproportionately communities of color, are signaling that this environmental racism is not a concern and that people of color are “disposable”
  • Over 215,000 people in Los Angeles live within 2,500 feet of an active oil and gas well
  • Exposure to gases and chemicals from the fossil fuel industry are causing massive health issues, such as asthma and cancer
  • A Stanford study found that pregnant women living near oil and gas wells in California face a high risk of preterm birth, with Black and Latinx women facing the highest risks
  • People exposed to large amounts of pollution are more likely to have severe and lethal effects of COVID-19
  • AB 345 will establish a state law that requires oil and gas drilling sites to be 2,500 feet away from homes, schools, and hospitals
  • However, the LA County Department of Regional Planning recently released plans for a 500-foot buffer zone from new drilling sites which is not an adequate distance 
  • Passing AB 345 will let Californians know that our elected representatives care about communities of color and are working toward ending environmental racism 

Take action to support AB 345. Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article244232417.html

A jobs program to plug abandoned oil wells sounds like a win-win. Is it?

by Emily Pontecorvo, Grist


Highlights

  • Abandoned oil wells across the country are leaking methane, a greenhouse gas that has 86 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide
  • The impending collapse of the oil industry around the world will only make matters worse, as more oil wells will be abandoned and the gas leaks will continue
  • A new report from Resources for the Future and Columbia University suggests creating a federally funded jobs program that would plug the holes left by oil wells by employing oil and gas workers
  • Similar propositions have been made: one in an infrastructure bill passed by the US House of Representatives and a nearly $2 billion program in Canada
  • There are 56,600 known unplugged “orphaned” wells within the country, however, there may be hundreds of thousands of unknown wells that were created before regulations were in place
  • The cost of plugging the wells range from $4,000 to over $100,000 per well with a total program cost of  $1.4 billion to $2.7 billion and could support about 13,500 jobs for one year
  • However, these costs are only estimates and the true cost of plugging could be more
  • As demand for labor and equipment increases, costs could increase or they could decrease as crews learn to plug wells more efficiently. Carbon Tracker found that the cost of plugging a newer shale well, which is typically thousands of feet deeper than older wells, could be anywhere from $300,000 to more than $1 million.
  • Once taxpayers start spending billions to plug wells, the oil industry will have successfully avoided many of their own costs and successfully left them on the backs of taxpayers
  • Any federal effort to plug abandoned wells should likely focus on older, truly orphaned wells to avoid a perverse incentive for the industry to create more wells, and they should require states to ensure future plugging costs are fully covered by the industry.

Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://grist.org/energy/a-jobs-program-to-plug-abandoned-oil-wells-sounds-like-a-win-win-is-it/

Fracking rig operates next to a walking and bike way for residents of Signal Hill drilling into the Los Angeles Oil Field. Photo by Sarah Craig.

The rise of leaky wells and taxpayer liabilities

A rapidly growing movement is underway in California to call out Governor Gavin Newsom for ramping up approval of fracking and drilling permits. This comes at a time when the effects of fossil fuel pollution on public health is of grave concern and many oil and gas companies may abandon leaky wells because of bankruptcy with falling demand for their products.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency approved 12 new permits for Chevron to conduct fracking in the Lost Hills Oil Field in Kern County. Newsom has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since ending his initial moratorium on the practice.

Newsom has also approved drilling permits for more than 1,400 new oil and gas wells so far this year. According to a California Council on Science and Technology report, it would cost more than $9.2 billion to properly plug California’s existing oil and gas wells, and operators have not set aside nearly enough money to pay for this legally required cleanup. Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution through proximity to these wells, making this a climate justice issue.

The federal government estimates that there are already more than three million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States. Two million of those are unplugged, releasing the methane equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 1.5 million cars. 

As oil and gas companies face bankruptcy, many fear that wells will be left leaking pollution, with cleanup costs left to taxpayers. At the same time, some of the top executives at these companies are granting themselves multi-million dollar bonuses just days before declaring bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, cities across the state see a way out of reliance on natural gas. The City of Berkeley banned new natural gas hookups in 2019, and now 30 California cities have policies that ban gas or at least encourage all-electric construction in some way. 

San Francisco officials recently said that they are introducing legislation that would be similar to Berkeley’s ban, and Pacific Gas & Electric has also said it would support the growing push for state rules that require new buildings to be all-electric.

Clearly California communities are moving away from natural gas. So, why is Newsom increasing extraction permits and with it, taxpayer liability for leaky wells?

Tell Governor Newsom to put public health first, not oil and gas interests

Culver City releases study that supports its authority to phase out neighborhood oil drilling

by Gabby Brown, Sierra Club


Highlights

  • Culver City’s city council released a new report today indicating that the city would have the authority to phase out oil drilling within the next year 
  • Local communities have voiced concern about the negative health impacts of neighborhood drilling, which exposes nearby residents to toxic chemicals and puts them at risk of respiratory illnesses, cancer, nervous system damage, and other health effects
  • The study could be used by the city as the legal basis for phasing out oil wells by January 2021
  • The Inglewood Oil Field surface boundary covers approximately 1,000 acres of land in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles County and represents one of the largest contiguous urban oil fields in the United States and has been in operation since 1925

As we transition to a clean energy economy in California and globally, we must ensure that it is a just transition and that workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries are included in a new clean energy economy. 


Read more: https://www.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2020/05/culver-city-releases-study-supports-its-authority-phase-out-neighborhood-oil

Oil Industry

California’s oil wells could cost $9 billion to plug

by Mark Olalde, Desert Sun, January 24, 2020


Highlights

Decommissioning and cleaning up oil and gas wells throughout the state may cost billions, but only $110 million is saved for this process.

  • Many wells become abandoned as oil and gas prices take sharp downturns and environmental policies result in the decrease of the use of wells over time
  • The California Council on Science and Technology estimates that clean up efforts will cost the state $85,000 per well 
  • There are an estimated 3 million deserted wells throughout the US, tens of thousands of which are in California

The Climate Center has proposed a price on carbon to catalyze the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner more climate-friendly energy sources. Clean energy advocates have long argued that the true costs of using fossil fuels like oil and natural gas are not accurate because they are externalized. The public pays these costs in the end through taxes and the burden to public health.


Read more: https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2020/01/24/california-oil-and-gas-wells-could-cost-9-billion-plug-clean/