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Two Bills Holding Community Oil Drillers Accountable Advance To Appropriations Committee, Says Consumer Watchdog


SACRAMENTO, Calif.April 23, 2024 /7Newswire — Assembly Bill 3155 (Friedman), which creates new financial liability for oil producers for harm from community oil drilling, cleared its second policy committee today and now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee last night by a vote of 7 to 3.

The legislation joins another bill for oil driller accountability in the Appropriations Committee, AB 2716 (Bryan), which requires committee drillers to pay a $10,000 per day fine for any well that produces less than 15 barrels of oil per day.

64 environmental, consumer and public interest groups came out for AB 3155, sponsored by Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment. Consumer Watchdog is also the sponsor of AB 2716.

“If oil and gas companies are going to continue to endanger the health of California residents, it is only fair they pay the costs when those residents get sick,” the groups wrote. “We need AB 3155 to protect our most vulnerable residents from our most powerful polluters. We believe oil companies should be held accountable for the health harms they cause.”

AB 3155, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman and cosponsored by Senator Lena Gonzalez, creates a liability presumption for a respiratory ailment, a pre-natal defect, and a person’s cancer diagnosis if they lived for two years within 3,200 feet of an oil and gas production facility that failed to use the most effective pollution control technology. Under AB 3155, oil drillers could face penalties ranging from $250,000 to a $1 million. The oil well operator can rebut that presumption if the person’s health problems were caused in another way, such as by genetics or another toxic exposure, or if they used the best pollution control technology that is commercially available.

More than 2.7 million Californians live within 3,200 feet of an existing operational oil or gas well and that number will continue to increase with the addition of new wells.

“This is a common sense bill. The health effects caused by oil drilling cost American taxpayers $77 billion annually. It is time that the people causing that harm and burdening taxpayers with that extreme cost pay for the effects of their drilling,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “Think about it like this: if you’re injured in a car accident, the person at fault bears some financial responsibility for the damage they caused. It should work the same when oil companies harm their neighbors. The people living in these protected zones are being injured and it is time that the responsible party incur their share of the financial cost of that damage rather than expecting taxpayers to foot the bill.”

California is home to 101,000 actively producing, idle, and newly permitted wells that have not yet become operational, according to FracTracker Alliance. Out of that number, 26,000 are located within the 3,200-foot health protective zone where millions of people live.

The scientific evidence shows that a direct link exists between drilling, pre-term births, as well as respiratory illnesses and cancer. AB 3155 builds on legislation, SB 1137 introduced by Senator Lena Gonzalez and passed in 2022, that for the first time established a health protective zone between communities and oil drilling, set at 3,200 feet. The oil industry contributed more than $20 million to qualify a referendum on this November’s ballot that would overturn that law.

“Oil drillers think people living in these communities are disposable, which is why they don’t use the best pollution control technology,” Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, said. “AB 3155 tells the drillers that if they are going to drill in communities they better take every precaution to do it as safely as possible or they will be liable.”

“The Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment is thrilled AB 3155 has passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee,” said Kayla Karimi, Staff Attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “We believe AB 3155 is pivotal to protecting frontline communities in California. The cost of oil companies doing business cannot be paid for in residents’ health and their subsequent health costs.”

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog