A signature gatherer asked community activist Pete Woiwode if he wanted to sign a petition to cut petrol costs while he was on his way to meet a friend at a street festival close to downtown Oakland in November. Woiwode, however, claimed that after reading the petition, he understood that it was really calling for a vote to invalidate SB 1137, a state law approved in September that forbids the drilling of new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of residences, hospitals, and schools.
The signature gatherer bowed out as soon as Woiwode pushed back against the assertion that the petition was about cutting petrol costs, he recalled. “Look man, they’re paying me a lot every signature to do this, he said. Even though I don’t agree with it, I have to have this job. Please sign this petition if you can. Will you comply?” he questioned.
The SB 1137
Environmental justice advocates have been calling for the regulation to reduce air pollution in low-income communities and communities of colour for years, so the passage of SB 1137, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law in September, has been met with celebration by those environmental justice advocates.
However, a few days after the bill was passed, Nielsen Merksamer, a law firm that specialises in ballot measures, filed a referendum on behalf of Jerome Reedy, a member of the board of administration of the California Independent Petroleum Association, to overturn SB 1137 (PDF). This was done on behalf of Nielsen Merksamer. This association has taken a stance against a number of state and local policies that have been proposed with the intention of limiting oil and gas drilling. These measures include bans and phase-outs that have been proposed for Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.
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No Effect To Human Health
One of them was a man from Oildale, California, which is located in oil-rich Kern County. He claimed that a petitioner assured him that drilling near residential areas has no effect on the health of humans. Another guy in Los Angeles claimed that a petitioner misled him into believing that the referendum would prohibit oil and gas drilling adjacent to educational institutions and medical facilities.
The signature gathering phase of the campaign to Stop the Energy Shutdown has begun. It was stated a week ago that they had collected almost a million, which is significantly more than the approximately 630,000 signatures that are required to qualify the issue for the statewide ballot in 2024.
The procedures necessary to certify them have been started at the office of the Secretary of State. SB 1137 will not be enacted into law in January if sufficient signatures are verified and the referendum is deemed eligible for the ballot. It won’t be taken up again until after the referendum has been completed.
The Misinformation about Petition
Last Chance Alliance, a climate action group based in California that is comprised of more than 900 public health, environmental justice, climate, and labour organisations around the world, has learned that residents of California are encountering misinformation from signature collectors. As a result, Last Chance Alliance has contacted the Associated Press with the names of people who say they were misled. Last Chance Alliance is a climate action group. The Associated Press met with six locals who confirmed their experiences with Last Chance Alliance. Five of the respondents claimed that they had already lodged complaints with the office of the Secretary of State, and one said that he was getting ready to do so.
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Unclear What Secretary of State will do for The Misinformation
It is not apparent what actions the Secretary of State will take in response to the allegations that signature gatherers used false information. A spokeswoman for the agency named Joe Kocurek said that the office had received multiple complaints saying that disinformation was spread, but he declined to give any other specifics, citing a “ongoing or potential inquiry.”
Signature gatherers were given explicit talking points about how SB 1137 increases the state’s reliance on foreign oil, which is exempt from our strict environmental and labour laws, according to a statement provided to the Associated Press by Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association.
The petition drive was organised by PCI Consulting, which answered a call from the Associated Press on Tuesday and took a message for someone to call back, but they did not. PCI Consulting was responsible for managing the petition drive.
Environmentalist are Worried
On Monday, the California Department of Conservation made the announcement that it is considering putting up emergency measures that are analogous to the drilling limits contained in SB 1137. Beginning on January 1, 2023, the Geologic Energy Management Division of California’s Department of Conservation and Resources will implement new restrictions that will prevent permit applications for new oil and gas wells located within 3,200 feet of schools.
If the referendum is allowed to be on the ballot, environmentalists are concerned that the laws for which they have fought so hard may still be maintained. They are concerned that this would provide an opportunity for oil and gas corporations to obtain permits for new oil and gas wells within a 3,200-foot radius of the existing wells.