California law banning new drilling near homes, schools heads to voters after oil pushback

A California law banning new drilling near homes, schools and hospitals will head to voters after an oil industry-backed referendum qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office announced on Friday the campaign challenging Senate Bill 1137 had gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure in 2022, and it went into effect on Jan. 1. It prohibits the state from approving new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of hospitals, schools and homes. It also requires existing wells to meet certain health, safety and environmental standards in the future.

The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) said in December that it spearheaded the referendum effort. The group reported collecting more than 978,000 signatures.

“Senate Bill 1137 threatens the livelihoods of over 50,000 hardworking Californians and forces the state to rely on more expensive, imported foreign oil that is completely exempt from California’s strict environmental laws,” CIPA CEO Rock Zierma said in an emailed statement.

The bill was part of a package of environmental laws pushed by Newsom and faced strong industry opposition before it passed in August.

“Greedy oil companies know that drilling results in more kids getting asthma, more children born with birth defects, and more communities exposed to toxic, dangerous chemicals,” Newsom said in a statement. “But they would rather put our health at risk than sacrifice a single cent of their billions in profits.”

The initiative is the latest industry-backed referendum to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. A campaign against a law creating a California fast food council meant to improve conditions for workers also gathered enough signatures to appear before voters.