The Oil Industry Wants the California Law to Stand

Editorial: Oil drillers want to overturn California’s new health protections. Don’t let them

The Associated Press

Updated 10:38 AM ET, Thu February 17, 2014

Oil drillers want to overturn California’s new health protections. Don’t let them.

Oil companies are gearing up for a fight over California’s new rules. They don’t need our help.

While there has been much criticism and debate about the provisions of the California law that required the state’s oil and gas companies to report the illnesses of their workers to the state, state officials say the law is a smart way to increase worker safety because it requires companies to report incidents of respiratory illness.

The law is an outgrowth of a recent lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the nation’s first-ever limit on air pollution from oil and gas operations — a regulation that was aimed at making it easier to regulate drilling.

Those health protections don’t cover oil spills or chemical accidents like an explosion in which a derrick is destroyed or a fire that ruptures a pipeline. The new rules don’t cover some of the most dangerous oil drilling jobs: fighting wildfires and removing debris from drilling sites. But it does limit the number of oil drilling disasters that will be reported to the state and provides benefits for workers by providing medical coverage for illness caused by oil drilling.

The good news is that the rules on reporting oil drilling illnesses can’t go away. That’s because they were issued by the state in response to complaints from the oil industry and a federal request that would undermine the law. The good news is that they were backed by the oil industry.

Why the industry doesn’t want the law to stand

One reason the oil industry opposes the law is because the provisions of it conflict with long-standing industry practices. That’s because California officials are forcing companies that drill the most serious oil spills to report them to the state and pay the state’s share of cleanup costs.

The oil industry’s concerns are misplaced. The law doesn’t force anyone to do anything. It simply ensures that the industry comes in under some of the costs of responding to oil spills.

The oil industry complains that this would be expensive. But in today’s volatile energy markets, companies aren’t likely to pay much

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