SAN FRANCISCO – People being paid to gather signatures for a California referendum to reverse a state law banning drilling near schools, homes and hospitals are using lies to lure unsuspecting residents to sign the petition, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
Part of the misinformation that signature gatherers are spreading is the promise of lower gas prices and, if the referendum is successful, a ban on oil and gas emissions near schools and hospitals, the AP reported.
“California Big Oil will stop at nothing, and stoop as low as necessary – including, of course, outright lies – to fight any regulations or restrictions on their dirty business,” said EWG President and California resident Ken Cook.
“We must stand up to them. I guarantee the mansions of the oil executives funding the deception being used to reverse this critical public health and environmental justice law don’t back up against a pollution-spewing drill rig,” Cook said.
The group behind the petition drive is the California Independent Petroleum Association, which represents oil and gas drillers in the state. The referendum would overturn S.B. 1137, signed into law in September by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It bans new oil and gas drilling operations within 3,200 feet of homes, hospitals and schools, something environmental justice advocates have demanded for years.
The industry now has over 900,000 signatures on the petition, more than enough required under state law to get their initiative on the 2024 November ballot.
A spokesperson for California’s secretary of state confirmed the office had received similar complaints about petition gatherers lying to voters but would not say more, citing an “ongoing or potential investigation” into the matter.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.