#FocusClimateChange: Time to Stop Fossil Fuel Production on Public Land

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Published October 23, 2019
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The Montclarion
California's new law will prevent the federal government from trying to drill for oil on protected land. Photo courtesy of Cogdogblog via Flickr

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a new bill into law on Oct. 12 to prevent the Trump Administration’s desire to increase oil and gas production on protected public land.

Specifically, this legislation restricts any California leasing authority to allow fossil fuel companies to construct on state property. In turn, this will curb oil drilling for several state-owned lands that are adjacent to federally protected land.

This legislation also restricts the Trump Administration from launching a practical war on public lands and protected environmental areas. As a nation, we should follow Newsom’s steps to preserve the lands that are still protected now and fight for every inch of our environment.

Democratic assemblyman Al Muratsuchi introduced the law and stated it sends a “clear message to Trump that we will fight to protect these beautiful lands for current and future generations.”

Ann Alexander, an attorney with the Natural Resource Defense Council, gave high praise to Newsom for signing this legislation. She states: “These bills are important steps toward prioritizing California’s communities over the oil industry.”

Alexander also discussed the oil situation in California as a whole, stating: “In a perfect California, we would not be producing or using oil at all, and we hope to get there soon.” She is also grateful the governor has prioritized the need to protect his citizens health and the environment.

Coming after advocacy groups such as Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance has shown this year that regulators have been issuing permits for drilling oil at double the rate they were in 2018.

These policy changes began after President Trump signed a proclamation removing over 861,000 acres from the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah in December of 2018.

Along with the Trump Administration’s policies of promoting domestic energy production, over 12.8 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels became available for lease within the first fiscal year of this new policy. That is triple the average amount leased during the entirety of Barack Obama’s second term.

Newsom is putting his foot down to prevent similar actions from occurring in California. I find that measures like these are necessary, especially given the damage fracking can cause to the environment, including lands we have tried preserving.

Air pollution is another significant side effect of fossil fuel expansion. For example, Wyoming has an ozone level of 124 parts per billion compared to 114 parts per billion on Los Angeles’s worst pollution day.

Residents of Wyoming who live near oil and natural gas sites have routinely complained about watery eyes, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest and bloody noses. These toxins could potentially make going to any protected land or park dangerous.

Transforming the clean air of beautiful lands preserved for decades into the air more contaminated than that of the most polluted U.S. cities is something I hope no one wants to happen.

Numerous chemical additives are used in the drilling process through the ground and fluids for the process of fracking to occur. Every well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid containing the added chemicals along with natural radioactive metal, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals.

This all occurs with fissures created by hydraulic fracking. This has been found to potentially create underground pathways for gases, chemicals and radioactive metals.

In 2011, we saw an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude oil leaked out of an Exxon Mobil pipeline. This pipeline was directly underneath the Yellowstone river bed and spilled directly into the river.

We are all sharing a beautiful planet. People in power are undermining the safety and structure of the ecology of our planet for pure profit and economic growth. Society can take a step forward and enforce more of these laws to prevent the lands they cherish most to become just another fossil fuel company’s moneymaker.

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