Editorial: Oil drillers want to overturn California’s new health protections. Don’t let them do it.
The debate over the California Legislature’s new public safety standards — a move aimed at protecting California consumers – is not unlike the national debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Both are attempts to overhaul a national health care system that many in the industry have criticized as being “out of control.”
The same arguments are being made against the Affordable Care Act, as the oil industry did when it was proposed in 2006, and as they will likely be made against California’s proposed new oil and gas safety standards this year.
As a rule, we don’t like new laws to be written. And, as the oil industry does with health laws, it can find it very useful to simply take advantage of the fact that they are being written.
In the case of the proposed legislation, the “out of control” claim was made in the early phase of the lawmaking process. This time, the oil industry has turned to the courts, arguing that the proposed law actually violates the Constitution’s separation of powers because it undoes existing state regulations and preempts the field of oil and gas safety.
One could not help but notice a similarity between the current debate and the 2006 health legislation. Just like the health care act, the oil and gas bill had its own critics. But the fact was that, if it had been passed, it would have cost the oil industry billions, if not trillions. That argument was strong enough to overcome a few legislators; but, as the story is often told, it took a strong and passionate California consumer advocate to defeat the legislation for good.
What happened in California is also happening across the country. What we see in California is a different law than what the rest of the nation is experiencing. The proposed bills in Oregon and Washington, while not identical to the California bill, have many of the same problems. Even the federal law known as the “Healthy Air Act” requires oil drilling to be done “with due regard for protecting persons and property against unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”
We don’t see the law, the health insurance mandate, or the subsidies as being too restrictive on oil companies. So why would there be a need for state law if the federal government has already set the standards and requirements that have to be met?