California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Nov. 19, halted approval of hundreds of fracking permits until independent scientists can review them.

The order will temporarily ban new wells using another drilling method that regulators believe is linked to one of the largest spills in our state’s history.

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources announced it will not approve new wells that use high-pressure steam to extract oil from the underground.

It’s the type of process Chevron uses at an oil field in the Central Valley that leaked more than 13 million gallons of oil and water this summer, according to the Associated Press.

That process is different from fracking which uses water and other chemicals at high pressure to extract oil. California has 263 pending fracking permits but has not approved any of them since July.

That’s when Newsom fired California’s top oil and gas regulator after learning the state had increased fracking permits by 35% since he took office in January, angering environmental groups.

Newsom, a Democrat, called the crackdown necessary to strengthen the state’s oversight of oil and gas extraction “as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on clean energy sources.”

“This transition cannot happen overnight; it must advance in a deliberate way to protect people, our environment and our economy,” the governor said.

But the oil industry called Newsom’s changes “disappointing,” with the Western States Petroleum Association saying California’s environmental regulations already lead the world.

The state has long been a leader on environmental issues, with Newsom’s Democratic predecessor, Jerry Brown, making climate change his signature effort. Brown was criticized for failing to ban fracking or oil drilling, arguing that the state needed to tackle demand before moving on to supply.

Newsom’s news was announced at the same time as City News Service reported that L.A. County gas prices dropped for the 14th consecutive day.

The CNS story said the price decreased 1.5 cents to $3.977, its lowest amount since Sept. 27.

California is one of the top five states for oil production, producing more than 161 million barrels last year, but is infamous for maintaining gasoline prices higher than many other states.

“Every barrel delayed or not produced in this state will only increase imports from more costly foreign sources that do not share our environmental safety standards,” the group’s president Catherine Reheis-Boyd said.

It’s predictable that gasoline prices will soon begin soaring again.

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