Governor keep your word to transition to 100% renewable energy — set the date to 2035 and stop CA from being one of America’s top crude oil producer​

While 315 elected officials applaud Newsom’s executive order — it’s not enough, he needs to declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis

“We applaud Governor Newson for his leadership on electric vehicles. It is a needed step to move us into a prosperous clean energy economy. However, allowing permits to extract the dirtiest oil in the U.S. is fueling the fires of climate change,” said Elected Officials to Protect California President, former Marine veteran and State Legislator Alex Cornell du Houx. “We can not protect our health, and prosperity without phasing out fossil fuel extraction. Let’s lead the world and sign executive actions that remove this blight on our health and California’s leadership.”

California is still one of America’s largest crude oil producers, which is the dirtiest oil in the United States. It’s equivalent to Canadian tar sands. A NRDC analysis of oil and gas development in California shows that approximately 5.4 million people of the state’s population live within a mile of one of more than 84,000 existing oil and gas wells — many suffer from lifelong illnesses like asthma and cancer because of their proximity. Over12,000 Californians die from this pollution annually.

During the governor’s press conference he said fracking is “symbolic.” It is deadly, not symbolic to Californians who suffer from cancer, asthma and other illnesses because of the pollution caused by oil operations in the state. Refineries are largely located in communities of color furthering systemic racism and environmental injustice. The profits of oil companies should never be more important than the lives of the Californian people. Throughout the press conference the governor didn’t mention that the state remains one of America’s top crude oil producers, and the nation’s top third refinery.

In the midst of an apocalyptic fire season, the pandemic and the economic crisis the need to move away from fossil fuel dependency has never been clearer. According to the California Air Resources Board the climate crisis considerably increases the frequency and severity of wildfires. Governor Gavin Newsom agreed publicly and this led to his announcement today.

Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA) knows his best course of action is to declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis. Phasing out gasoline vehicles is only part of the solution. It’s not enough.

We asked Governor Newsom to declare a climate emergency onSeptember 2, right after the first heatwave and subsequent extreme heat lightning strikes that fed off the tinder box drought conditions that were fueled by climate change. But Newsom ignored the EOPCA request, from over 300 elected officials.

On September 16, 2020,EOPCA sent a follow up letter urging the climate crisis state of emergency declaration, which would enable the governor to take necessary steps that can be monitored to mitigate the crisis by phasing out fossil fuel production in California.

“We are on the front lines of the climate emergency. The situation has only gotten worse. Lives are being lost; families uprooted and businesses destroyed. We can’t afford to wait. The state should transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2035 — 2045 is too late. The governor admitted, in a news conference, that 2045 is ‘inadequate,’’ said Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Council-member, as well as Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair.

“Across the entire spectrum, our (climate) goals are inadequate to the reality we’re experiencing,” said Newsom. “We’re going to have to fast-track our efforts.”

Elected Officials to Protect California believe it is imperative for the safety of state and nation to implement faster results than his executive order prescribed. Results that include phasing out fossil fuel production in the state.

“The people that over 315 of us represent, are the same people Governor Newsom represents. They need him to act now — before the flames of climate change can’t be contained. This fire season, and the pandemic are clear results of humans disrupting the environment — it’s time our governor took real action. When is he going to see he’s fueling the fires that have caused this climate emergency?” asked Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Council Member, Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair. “I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, we’re standing up for our communities, for all Californians. With one stroke of the pen, issuing a state of emergency for the climate crisis, the governor could begin to phase out all fossil fuel production — to match the urgency of the climate crisis we are living in.”

As of 2019, California was ranked as the third largest producer of natural gas and fifth in crude oil in the United States. Another source says the state is the third largest producer of dirty crude oil. The state is also third in the nation inpetroleum refining capacity. California refineries operate at or near-maximum capacitybecause of the high demand for petroleum products.

“There is no doubt that California is one of the largest producers of oil and gas in America. To be in the top tier tells the world the state is a leader for the oil and gas industry, not for the health and wellbeing of the people of California,” said Firebaugh City former Mayor and current Councilmember Felipe Perez, EOPCA Steering Committee Member. “As long as the state produces the fuel of the climate crisis, we cannot seriously claim to be decarbonizing the economy — for the Californian economy is intertwined in the global economy. We must stop fueling the flames of climate change caused by the oil and gas industry, by transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

Still the governor makes claims.

“While we’re leading the nation in low-carbon green growth, as we’ve led the nation in our efforts to decarbonize our economy, we’re going to have to do more,” Newsom told reporters on September 11. Today he said the state is the only cap-n-trade program in America. Not true the north eastern regional greenhouse gas initiative, RGGI, has been successfully going since 2008.

“It’s disingenuous to say that we are decarbonizing our economy when we are fueling the world’s economy with fossil fuel products. The climate crisis has shown us how interconnected and interdependent we are. Californian fire smoke has reached European shores,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor and EOPCA Steering Committee Member Heidi Harmon. “My kid (the mayor’s 25 year old is gender neutral) called me in distress and asked me if everything was going to be alright. For the first time, I had to say ‘I don’t know.’ As a mother it’s hard to explain the pain of saying those words. Why shouldn’t my kid be able to enjoy the simple things in life, like breathing fresh air? Things that many of us took for granted growing up. Why are millions of children being subjected to this apocalyptic destruction? It’s not too late to mitigate what’s happening but we need the governor to take action and really transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy now.”

This year Newsom issued 48 newfracking permits since April and had a 190 percent oil and gas drilling permit increase during the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019.

This year 26 times more Californian acreage has burnt than in 2019. As of September 14, a total of 7,718 fires have burned 3,451,428 acres, more than three percent of the state’s roughly 100 million acres of land, making 2020 the largest Californian wildfire season in recorded history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

These record-breaking fires are releasing unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide and particulate-matter pollution into the atmosphere, leading to the first increase in wildfire emissions in the U.S. since 2015, Bloomberg reports. In some spots, the intensity of fires has been up to hundreds of times higher than the average from 2003 to 2019.Recent studieshave shown that exposure to air pollutants increases risk of dying from COVID-19. And the fire season is nowhere near the end.

Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA) have been warning Governor Gavin Newsom about the danger of fossil fuels and the environmental injustices they propagate to communities across the state, and yet little has been done.

More than 110 local governments in California have passed 160 local policies to protect their communities from fossil fuels. They took action. It’s time the state addressed the climate emergency.

“Governor Newsom: today as the fires still devastate our state, it is urgent that we commit to do everything humanly possible to stop climate change, caused by fossil fuels. We have the technology to move to 100% renewable clean energy and we need your leadership to get us there; to provide for a just transition for those working in that industry and to expand exponentially the jobs in renewable energy, which will be the basis for prosperity in our state. Now we must insist on an end to permits for fracking, oil and gas. Future generations will praise us or condemn us. Please listen, Governor and use your powers to save our future,” said Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, Esq, EOPCA Steering Committee Member.

Prior to the pandemic the fossil fuel industry was already in turmoil.Having started 2020 near $70 a barrel,oil plunged below $25 as storage tanks neared capacity and the price ofU.S. oil futures evenbriefly sank below zero. California’sbiggest oil driller declared bankruptcy. Four major pipelineshave gotten the axe. Exxon Mobil got booted from the New York Stock Exchange in favor of a technological company.

“These fires are a living nightmare. We have to take action and convert our economy. Over 100 economists have called for an end to the carbon economy. According toForbes, with a transition to 100 percent clean energy, energy investors will seeboosted value and new opportunities to innovate,” said Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb, EOPCA signatory. “In order to rebuild coming out of this pandemic recession we must provide innovation jobs and training in the clean economic sectors, focusing on employing the thousands who have lost their jobs and giving those harmed by systemic racism opportunities.”

While there has been some focus on how California needs more fire mitigation, by selectively burning acreage like the state’s Native Indians used to do, thereby managing the forests as stewards. The problem is, more people are living in forested areas that historically were areas which burned periodically. Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in the west. From 1992 – 2015 there were32,000,000 — that’s million— more homes built in these fire prone areas.

The annual number of fires has increased lock step with changing climate. As the temperature has risen 2.5 degrees there is a direct correlation with the intensity and amount of fires that have increased over a thirty to fifty-year period, according to Miles O’Brian, science correspondent, of thePBS Newshour.

Between 1985 and 2015, wildfires in California doubled as a direct result of changing climate conditions. California has experienced dryer seasons and hotter temperatures, as precipitation levels have decreased 30 percent since 1980. Under these conditions soil hemorrhages moisture and wildfires proliferate, coaxed to life by obstreperous California winds. Doug Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland explained that, “Where warming and drying climate has increased the risk of fires, we’ve seen an increase in burning.”

Scientific evidence shows fossil fuel industries are undeniably culpable, as the top 90 companies produce over 50 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas. These companies knowingly endangered the lives of many global citizens. In 1977, Exxon Mobil’s own researcher warned that combusting fossil fuels could have detrimental consequences for the planet. Five states are currently suing for damages.

Alarmingly, California is beginning to resemble Australia. Wildfires are slated to increase overall as California will see a 30 percent increase in lightning-related wildfire occurrences before 2060.

View the full letter from EOPCA demanding the governor declare a state of emergency for the climate crisisHERE.

Elected Officials to Protect California is a project of the Elected Officials to Protect America.

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.

September 23, 2020


Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511