Lawmakers Reconsider Oil & Gas Policy After Recent Cymric Oil Spill

SACRAMENTO—Yesterday, the California State Assembly held an oversight hearing to consider the sustainability and safety of California’s oil extraction industry in light of massive spills at Chevron’s Cymric oil field in Kern County over the last few years. One spill leaked more than 50 million gallons of crude oil into the surrounding area. Chevron employed a controversial, extreme extraction technique known as cyclic steaming at the site, where steam is injected below the earth’s surface under high pressure to break up formations and access hard-to-reach heavy crude. Earlier in the year, California’s oil industry regulator adopted weaker restrictions on the practice, allowing for higher injection pressures that make these operations even more dangerous.

As California grapples with the contradiction between setting forward-thinking climate goals, and maintaining its robust oil extraction industry, yesterday’s hearing marks the latest step in addressing the longstanding threats to the environment and public health associated with in-state extraction. Advocates representing frontline communities most suffering the impacts of California’s fossil fuel industry highlighted the threats facing communities living near oil and gas extraction sites during the hearing.

“We have a real opportunity to move California into a new direction, away from a dying, extractive economy toward one that protects our communities and our climate,” said Ingrid Brostrom, assistant director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “No where else in the world allows for industrial oil operations in such close proximity to densely populated urban areas. California must do better to achieve our climate goals and protect communities, especially communities of color already overburdened with pollution across our state. We urge the State Assembly to enact sensible measures, like a 2,500 ft. health and safety buffer around extraction sites, to protect families and our environment.”

“For decades California has rolled out the red carpet for the oil industry while these companies have trashed our air, water, health and climate,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It’s time for Gov. Newsom and the legislature to protect Californians by completely phasing out dirty oil extraction in our state. The state can’t claim to be a leader in protecting our environment until it does so.”