Editorial: Oil drillers want to overturn California’s new health protections. Don’t let them.
The most fundamental protection of the health of Californians is still to be debated.
The people most at risk — the residents living alongside the proposed Bakken Shale oil boom in northwestern Arkansas, and those still in places like Prudhoe Bay and the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana — have no say in the matter. After all, all that matters is whether the oil companies get their oil permits.
All the residents who live in those places should have the opportunity to weigh in, if they feel like they want to, on the health and well-being of those who have the right to drill, or not to.
California should not let oil companies pass through the state to drill in those locations.
If and when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalizes a health-protective air permit for oil drilling, California should insist on the same for the oil and gas industry. The permit must be considered “similar to” the existing federal and state limits on toxic emissions of air pollutants.
When it comes to health, the rule on toxic air emissions is a first step. The people who live on the fringes of the Bakken boom have been fighting against oil drilling ever since the EPA issued it in 2016, arguing it would give the oil industry more breathing room than they feared.
That air permit has been challenged by some community activists, and by environmental groups, but the courts have ruled that it is valid.
The people who live in and near the new shale oil drilling sites need to be able to weigh in. This health-protective air permit should be considered “similar to” the existing state and federal limits, and be subject to the same legal challenges as the air permits for other chemicals — and certainly those of mercury and other pollutants.
If the permitting permits are set aside, the EPA must issue air permits with stringent limitations on toxic emissions, and a ban on mercury and other carcinogenic toxins.
The EPA has yet to finalize a final rule on the air permits for the oil and gas industry, but the agency has issued a number of interim rules under the Clean Air Act to provide guidance to industry, scientists and the public.
When it comes to pollution control, the public doesn’t have a lot of say, because there are no effective measures to regulate air pollution — in