On the same day that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that permanently banned fracking in New York, California Governor Gavin Newsom sadly moved in the other direction by lifting a 9-month moratorium on fracking in the state. Despite Governor Newsom’s bold campaign commitment to ban fracking in 2018, he has shown little resolve or backbone to stand up to the oil and gas industry since taking office. Approving 24 new fracking permits in the middle of a pandemic is not a good look. Newsom may have hoped to keep the decision quiet while everyone was distracted with the global health crisis, but we were paying attention.
A Quick History On Newsom’s Relationship To Fracking
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.
But during Newsom’s first six months in office, the issuance of fracking permits increased — until Consumer Watchdog released data exposing the trend. Having been outed, Newsom fired the head of oil and gas regulation in the state and issued a de-facto moratorium on fracking permits in July of 2019.
Later that year, Governor Newsom issued a new directive that reworked the moratorium to include a loophole — an external, “independent” approval process for new fracking. This process required third-party review of fracking permits by Lawrence Livermore National Lab. We realized at that moment that Newsom’s commitment to oppose fracking was wavering.
Recently, Newsom directed the Department of Finance to audit the fracking permit process to determine if it needs to be strengthened. Until this audit is complete, we presume the backlog of 282 fracking permits will continue to be approved. We also predict the audit will result in nothing more than another rubber stamp for fracking in California.
Newsom Needs To Stand Against The Fossil Fuel Industry During This Pandemic
Governor Newsom's actions leave Californians more vulnerable than ever during this global coronavirus pandemic. The deepening health and climate crisis facing all Californians, especially those experiencing asthma and pre-existing health conditions, is urgent and must be addressed. Instead, Governor Newsom’s expansion of fracking, and all the air and water pollution it creates, will deepen this health crisis for communities bearing the brunt of its effects.
In the midst of this pandemic, our first priorities should be protecting public health, rescuing the suddenly unemployed, protecting first responders and securing basic necessities — not propping up failed fossil fuel corporations at the expense of all Californians. It’s common sense: Newsom’s attention should be focused on support for Californians who need it most, not the floundering fossil fuel companies behind the climate crisis.
Governor Newsom has long been interested in a run for president, and California’s struggle with the coronavirus has elevated him in the national spotlight. But his history on fracking will follow him. He must lead on climate and energy now and ban fracking. He would join Democratic and Republican governors from New York, Washington and Maryland, hastening the momentum for a national fracking ban and landing himself on the right side of history. Tell Newsom it's time to do the right thing!