Sacramento, Calif. — An audit by the state Department of Finance reveals that oil and gas regulators have been violating their own rules. As reported in both the Desert Sun and Capital Public Radio, California Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) regulators used “dummy files” to rubber-stamp hundreds of oil well permits lacking proper environmental reviews during 2019.

Last Chance Alliance, a coalition of more than 750 public health, environmental justice, climate, and labor organizations issued the following statement:

“Despite campaign promises to ban fracking and be a climate leader, Governor Newsom continues to show his true colors. He was recently caught partying with an oil industry lobbyist, flashing his wealth and flouting the very same COVID-19 rules he expects everyone else in the state to follow, while California’s frontline communities face very tangible health threats from unchecked polluters. His own agency, tasked with safeguarding public health and safety, has been captured by fossil fuel executives who ignore public health concerns, and continues to rewrite or outright ignore rules as it sees fit. This is the latest example of shameless, above-the-law behavior by a governor who shows no attrition as he continues to issue new fracking permits, despite public outrage. Our alliance has repeatedly demanded he live up to his promises, which also include enacting setback protections for frontline communities that are consistent with the state’s scientific recommendations. Our efforts have been met with empty words and no action, leaving communities, our water and our air at risk—during a pandemic, no less. Even now, as we await CalGEM’s forthcoming draft health and safety rule, which is notably being produced by the same agency that just circumvented crucial environmental laws, we are being forced to continue fighting for our Governor to adhere to basic science. Right now, he is clearly demonstrating that the fossil fuel corporations are calling the shots.”

The audit found that CalGEM failed to update its own policies to enforce recent changes to state regulations and had shoddy or missing paperwork for multiple drill sites.

The audit is the latest damning evidence of Newsom’s failure to protect communities’ health and safety from fossil fuel extraction. His administration released the results of the audit just before the Thanksgiving holiday, alongside the notice that it had issued new fracking permits to Chevron and Aera. This timing reflects a sneaky pattern of delivering updates on state oil and gas drilling under the cover of holiday or busy news cycles.  

Earlier this year, the Newsom  administration issued 12 new fracking permits to Chevron just as Californians headed into the Fourth of July weekend, 12 permits to Aera Energy in June, amid the racial justice uprising in response to the police killing of George Floyd, and another 24 permits to Aera while Californians were gripped with fear and uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic in April. 

Moreover, his public scandal at French Laundry, where Newsom was caught by a photographer at an unmasked, indoor dinner for longtime friend and oil lobbyist Jason Kinney, reveals his close ties to industry insiders. Kinney represents Aera Energy, which has received the most fracking permits this year. Despite campaigning as a progressive candidate who would deliver on the issues of climate change and racial justice, Newsom has shown himself to be cozy with the oil industry while disregarding public health and environmental justice as Governor.