Ankit Banerjee, Toronto, November 24, 2021
The controversial gas and oil extraction process is expected to be banned in the state by 2024, but it looks like California is well on its way to ending fracking before the deadline. The state’s oil regulators have rejected every fracking permit request since February this year, resulting in a record 109 denials, the most since California allowed fracking in 2015. CalGEM (California’s Geological Energy Management Division) has approved just 12 permits in 2021, down from 83 last year and 220 in 2019.
Fracking only accounts for 2% of the state’s oil and gas production, but environmental groups have long sought the complete ban of the practice in the state. The process, that involves injecting high-pressure water into underground rock to extract oil and gas, is controversial because of worries over groundwater contamination and related health concerns for people living nearby. A CalGEM spokesperson said that most rejections, around 50, were issued based on climate change concerns.
Most fracking in the state occurs in Kern County, and the county and the Western States Petroleum Association have sued the state government because of the denials. The lawsuits argue that most fracking permit requests meet the technical requirements, and the unprecedented number of denials are akin to a ban, despite it not officially approved by state lawmakers yet. There’s a hearing for the Kern County case at the end of the month and the state has to respond to the WSPA’s lawsuit by December 2. The judgement from these cases will show whether California will be able to meet its lofty goals of a complete fracking ban by 2024 and no underground oil-drilling of any kind by 2045.