It’s Wednesday, November 20, and California is cracking down on fracking.

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In the Trump era, California has been a national leader in implementing evidence-based environmental policies, and Governor Gavin Newsom is not shying away from that role. On Tuesday, Newsom took steps to tighten regulations on oil and gas extraction in the Golden State by placing a moratorium on new permits for steam-injected oil drilling and halting the approval of hundreds of pending fracking permits until independent scientists can review them.

In the first six months of Newsom’s term this year, fracking was on the rise. The state signed off on 35 percent more new oil and gas drilling permits than in the same time period last year. As it turned out, several regulators in the state agency overseeing the permits had stock in oil companies. Newsom fired the head of the agency in July, and no new fracking projects have been permitted since then.

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Steam-injected oil drilling, a different process from fracking, made headlines earlier this year when more than 900,000 gallons of oil and brine leaked from a drilling site in Kern County, California. The moratorium will be in place while regulators investigate whether it’s even possible for this type of drilling to be done safely.

“These are necessary steps to strengthen oversight of oil and gas extraction as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources,” Newsom said in a statement.

Emily Pontecorvo

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