In his first year in office, Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to protect Californians against hazards and pollutants from oil and gas production. Now the governor is facing increasing pressure to make good on his promise after efforts in the Legislature to mandate health and safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells and refineries failed amid fierce opposition from the petroleum industry and trade unions.
Legislation to put in place minimum setback distances between the wells and residential areas, along with public places such as schools and playgrounds, failed passage in a state Senate committee last week. The proposal faced a rough go from the outset, with resistance coming from Republicans and some pro-labor and Central Valley Democrats, underscoring the continued political muscle of California’s billion-dollar oil industry — even in a