Sat, 09 Dec 2023

SACRAMENTO, California: California lawmakers have blocked an environmental bill that would have made oil companies liable for the health problems of people who live close to oil wells, and another bill that would have increased the state's emissions targets.

The two bills are among hundreds that did not survive the state's Legislature suspense file, a process where lawmakers decide on the bills that could become law later and the ones that should not progress without explanation.

In 2022, Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law banning the drilling of new oil wells within 3,200 feet of vulnerable areas, such as homes and schools, but the oil industry have placed a referendum on the 2024 ballot asking voters to overturn it, angering environmental and health activists.

Under the proposed bill, authored by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, oil companies would have been required to pay up to $1 million to people who have cancer or other health issues caused by the wells.

"Today, we missed a key opportunity to advance legislation that would hold polluters accountable and prevent further harm to families who are just trying to stay healthy and have a better quality of life," said Gonzalez in a statement.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also prevented the bill from reaching the floor of the Senate, meaning it is not likely to become law.

"The billions of dollars and the fiscal mess that this bill would have caused to the State and local governments from their own liabilities, the fiscal responsibility of inherited wells, and the cost to the court system, would be substantial," noted Kara Greene, spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association, as quoted by the Associated Press.

This year, State Senator Henry Stern, a Los Angeles Democrat, introduced another failed bill that would have required the state to reduce green house emissions to 55 percent below the 1990 level by the end of 2030.

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