In-Depth: Bill would ban most foreign oil in California

SB 1319 aims to increase domestic production
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 04, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A new bill in the California Legislature would effectively ban almost all of the foreign oil imported into California.

Senate Bill 1319 would prohibit oil imports "if the source of the oil is a foreign nation with demonstrated human rights abuses... or a foreign nation with environmental standards that are lower than those in California."

State Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield, is the sponsor. She says the bill would help the environment by favoring oil produced in California, which has stricter environmental rules for drilling and oil production.

"What you can do is produce oil under the strictest and most environmental quality regulatory processes to make it safe," she says.

According to the California Energy Commission, the state imported 56.2% of its oil from foreign countries in 2021. Alaska provided 14.9% of California's oil. In-state oil accounted for 28.9%. Grove says the state should decrease its dependence on foreign oil to help the environment and the economy.

"(Foreign) oil is produced in the Amazon rain forest. They bulldoze down the Amazon rain forest and they put it on a bunker vessel ship, and they ship it over to California," Grove says. "Drilling for oil here producing California jobs, California oil, by California workers to put into our California refineries, to put in our California gas tanks is the best solution possible," she says.

State records show that 24.13% of California's foreign oil comes from Ecuador, 22.85% from Saudi Arabia, 20.41% from Iran, 7.96% from Columbia, and 4.5% from Mexico. Those five countries account for around 80% of the state's foreign oil. Grove's bill would essentially ban oil from all of them.

While she believes it would help the environment, local environmentalists say it would have the opposite effect.

"As a necessary part of the law, it means ramping up production in California," says Kyle Ferrar with the FracTracker Alliance. They're a group that monitors oil production in the state.

Ferrar says increased local production would keep California from reaching its Climate Action goals.

"That means more drilling for communities in California. Neighborhood drilling, drilling near where people live, recreate, go to school, or go to church," says Ferrar.

"The solution is not a further build-out of fossil fuels here. (The solution) means shifting our resources to renewable energy resources."

FracTracker runs a website called "Newsom Well Watch," which monitors all of the oil permits approved by the Governor. They say Governor Newsom has approved more than 10,000 permits since 2019. While that number is a decrease from prior years, Ferrar says it's more than enough for oil companies to increase production within the state.

"The oil and gas industry has a lot of wells that have been permitted, that have not been drilled hundreds of them, in fact," he says. "Really, the industry needs to act on all of the permits that they have now, before asking for more permits to be issued."

Senator Grove points out that not all approved permits mean new drilling. Some are for repairs and maintenance. She says there are hundreds more for new wells that could help California take control of its energy future if the bill passes.

SB 1319 will have its first hearing on April 5 in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.