CA Governor Halts Fracking Permits, NY Governor In Standoff Over Natural Gas

CA Governor Gavin Newsom         Photo: Irfan Khan, AP

Governors on both coasts are going to battle with oil and gas companies over climate change. Continuing his strong environmental protection agenda, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced new regulations putting in place a moratorium on fracking and curbed steam-injected oil drilling in the state, which environmentalists have long opposed.  Meanwhile, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is locked in a “standoff” with natural gas supplier National Grid and has threatened to revoke the company’s license to operate in the southern part of New York unless they resume doing gas hookups for both new and returning customers immediately.

Why This Matters:  The California Governor’s actions are not happening out of the blue.  In fact, a series of high profile and uncontrolled releases of crude oil and tainted water from Chevron wells in California that began in May and continue today has made the high-pressure cyclic steaming process even more controversial than it had been.  Meanwhile, the NY Governor — as well as residents on Long Island — are stuck between the state’s regulators and the company because back in May the regulators denied a permit for construction of additional natural gas infrastructure for climate change and other environmental reasons.  The transition away from gas — whether by fracking bans or the denial of additional gas infrastructure — is likely to be the first battleground over how to wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

California’s Permit Moratorium

It has been reported that as a result of this breach, more than 900,000 gallons of oil and brine have been released from the Chevron facility, for which the State has been fined $2.7 million.  The decision seems like a prudent precaution to obviously problematic conditions at the Chevron facility that would lead to questions about whether high-pressure cyclic steaming can be done safely or should be prohibited altogether.

  • The rationale for California’s moratorium is to improve oversight and public safety related to fracking, and new fracking permits will only be allowed after undergoing and independent scientific review by experts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • In addition, the California permitting process will be audited by the state Department of Finance to study compliance with state law.

New York Standoff Caused by Denial of New Gas Pipeline Permit

National Grid maintains that the $1 billion natural gas pipeline that the company was seeking to run from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York is crucial to meeting the rising energy demand in the region.  As a result of the moratorium, the Governor wrote National Grid a letter accusing them of “mishandling” its gas supply system and “recklessly disregarding” its obligations as a public utility when it issued the moratorium.  According to The New York Times, National Grid, which supplies gas to 1.8 million customers in New York City and on Long Island, said it would “respond accordingly.”

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo     Photo:  Seth Wenig, AP

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