Newsom Signing Bills

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a recent bill-signing ceremony. 

A new law signed Oct. 12 by Gov. Gavin Newsom prohibits state agencies from allowing any gas or oil infrastructure development on state lands, a measure aimed at stymieing fossil-fuel extraction on adjoining federal lands. The bill was part of a wider package of energy bills signed by the governor, while he vetoed others including one that would have renewed the California Public Utilities Commission's Office of the Safety Advocate.

AB 342 was introduced by Assm. Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who said the administration of President Donald Trump is pursuing oil and natural gas exploration on federally owned land. 

The bill would prevent any state agency or local trustee with leasing authority over state lands from entering into a right-of-way lease or other conveyance that would allow construction of oil- or gas-related infrastructure to support production on federal land. The Trump administration has increased sixfold the amount of federally owned land available for oil and gas leases, leading to new oil drilling and pipeline installations inside the boundaries of the Carrizo Plain National Monument near San Luis Obispo, according to a bill analysis.

The bill has an unknown fiscal impact should it hinder a future federal project that would have provided lease revenue to the state. It passed the Assembly floor Sept. 9 on a 51-19 vote with 10 votes not recorded, and the Senate Sept. 4 on a 23-9 vote with eight votes not recorded.

Previous legislation by Muratsuchi, AB 1775, made similar rules for state waters, creating roadblocks for oil and gas exploration off the coast. But AB 342 might not be as effective on land because there is not a clear, undisrupted barrier between federal and state lands, as is the case offshore, the bill analysis says.

The State Lands Commission, the agency most affected by the bill, and local trustees have 19 right-of-way leases to allow oil and gas pipelines in federal waters to cross state waters. On land, the state agency has one right-of-way lease in Kern County, where 95 percent of all federal drilling in California occurs. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management manages nearly 600 oil and gas leases in California, up to 90 percent of which are related to oil and gas activities in the San Joaquin Valley. California's federal production makes up 8 to 10 percent of total oil and gas production in the state.

Other bills signed by Newsom Oct. 12 were:

  • SB 551, from Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), which phases in a requirement that oil and gas well operators provide estimates of the cost to plug and abandon wells and decommission attendant oil and gas production facilities, as specified, and requires the state to establish criteria for the estimates and perform certain related inspections, among other things.
  • AB 1057, from Assm. Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara), which renames the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources to the Geologic Energy Management Division. It also authorizes the state's oil and gas supervisor to require an operator to provide an additional amount of security in an amount not to exceed the reasonable costs of plugging and abandoning all of the operator's wells, or $30 million.
  • AB 1328, from Assm. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), which requires DOGGR (now GEMD) in consultation with the California Air Resources Board to study idle, idle-deserted, and abandoned oil and gas wells in California to better understand their emissions of air pollutants, and increases the time permitted between announcing the intent to abandon a well and cancellation of that announcement from 12 to 24 months.
  • SB 463, from Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), which improves reporting of the chemical composition of materials that may be emitted from a natural gas storage well in the event of a reportable leak, and requires DOGGR (now GEMD) to review and revise its natural gas storage well regulations and policy.

Bills vetoed by Newsom Oct. 12 included SB 199, introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), which would have extended the sunset date for the CPUC's Office of the Safety Advocate from Jan. 1, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2025. The bill would also have required safety training for CPUC staff and required the agency and the safety office to report to the Legislature each year on their activities.

Newsom said that over the past few years, many safety and oversight measures have led to the development of new CPUC offices or divisions focused on safety. The CPUC is working to implement these new requirements, and the OSA is now duplicating many of the duties of the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, Newsom said in a veto message. "Allowing the OSA to sunset does not mean that its important work will not continue. Rather, those duties will be effectively integrated into the CPUC," he said.

The OSA recently dropped out of the CPUC's settlement discussion with Pacific Gas & Electric over its locate-and-mark practices for gas and electric lines, saying it had raised concerns that were not being addressed. The OSA also cited AB 1054, signed by Newsom in July, which required PG&E to exit bankruptcy by June 2020 to access a new state wildfire fund. The office said the deadline put too much pressure on parties to reach settlement quickly in the locate-and-mark case (see CEM No. 1557).

Newsom also vetoed AB 684, by Assm. Mark Levine (D-Marin County), which would have required the Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development to propose mandatory building standards for the construction of electric-vehicle charging infrastructure for existing multifamily dwellings and nonresidential developments.

Newsom said he agreed with the intent of the bill, but believes it is best addressed administratively to balance the need for affordable housing. So he directed the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop and propose a building standard that would increase EV charging infrastructure at existing multifamily properties while limiting costs that could affect housing affordability.