California governor seeks end to oil drilling in state by 2045

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Oil storage containers are seen, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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April 23 (Reuters) - California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday directed his administration to take steps to phase out oil and gas drillingin one of the nation’s top oil-producing states by 2045 and to ban new fracking permits within three years.

Newsom has been under pressure from environmental activists and progressive politicians who say extraction of oil and gas is at odds with California's goals of moving away from fossil fuels and fighting climate change.

"I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil," Newsom said in a statement.

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Oil production in California has declined steadily since the 1980s, partly because of tough environmental standards. But government data shows the state remains the seventh-biggest U.S. crude oil producer, second-biggest oil consumer, and home to a tenth of U.S. refining capacity.

California's climate change policies also are among the most aggressive of any U.S. state, including a goal to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2035.

Several green groups and Democratic lawmakers said the state needed to move more quickly to phase out drilling, while the oil and gas industry criticized the governor's announcement, as did some politicians who said the action would hurt drilling-dependent jobs and communities.

The Western States Petroleum Association, in a statement, pledged "to fight this harmful and unlawful mandate."

Newsom directed the California state oil and gas regulator, the Geologic Energy Management Division, to initiate a process that will halt the issuance of hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024. Fracking accounts for just 2% of oil extraction in California, according to the state's Department of Conservation.

In addition, the governor said the California Air Resources Board, which writes the state's climate change policies, will evaluate how to phase out oil and gas extraction by 2045.

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Reporting by Nichola Groom, Editing by Franklin Paul

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