SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA.— On Valentines Day, a bipartisan group of hundreds of mayors, county supervisors, and local elected officials made a plea to Governor Gavin Newsom to “show his love for California” by enacting a comprehensive Climate Emergency Plan to phase out the production and burning of fossil fuels. The lawmakers said the plan must end new permits for oil and gas drilling, enact 2,500-foot science-based public health setbacks on drilling, and achieve 100% clean energy in all sectors.
Gathered at the State Capitol, the officials personally delivered a “love letter” to Governor Newsom, signed by over 300 local electeds from 49 counties, including 75 mayors. The letter highlighted the emergency action that the state must take to address the public health and climate harms caused by fossil fuels.
“Oil and gas industries continue to threaten our safety, the public’s health, and are heating up our climate beyond safe levels,” said Davis Mayor Brett Lee. The climate crisis demands action at all levels of government. Many cities have taken action, now it’s time for the state to step up.”
In the absence of comprehensive state oil and gas policy that protects Californians and the climate, the letter highlights the rapidly growing number of policies that more than 110 local governments across the state have enacted to protect their communities from fossil fuel production and burning. Concerned that Australia’s apocalyptic fires are a dire warning for California’s increasingly life-threatening fire season, local elected officials from across the state stood in solidarity at the State Capitol and called on the Governor to declare a climate emergency.
Already, more than 110 local governments in California have passed more than 165 local policies to protect their communities from fossil fuels, including phase-out plans and setbacks on oil and gas drilling, climate lawsuits or divestment from fossil fuel companies, or opposing expansion of fossil fuel production or infrastructure.
“With refineries surrounding the area I represent in Solano County, pollution is degrading the quality of life for many of our most marginalized residents. In the portion of Vallejo that I represent, we have high rates of asthma, cancer, other health issues related to pollution,” said Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. “The time to transition to clean energy is now – to protect our citizens. It’s our moral obligation.”
With the climate crisis polling as the top issue for California voters, deadly fires and climate disasters worsening, the elected officials highlighted how the state’s fossil fuel production threatens the health and safety of our communities and emphasized that fossil fuel production drives the climate crisis and kills 12,000 Californians each year.
“Since Chico became the first city to declare a climate emergency, many others have followed. It’s high time the State issued a Climate Emergency Decree. That way we can start to take emergency action to abate the climate crisis before it’s too late,” said Chico Mayor Randall Stone. “It’s time we put our people above the profits of corporations.”
On November 19, 2019, Governor Newsom announced a halt on new oil extraction wells that use high-pressure steam injection drilling, an independent review of new fracking permits, and a new rule-making process for public health and safety protections near oil and gas extraction facilities set to take place in 2020. The officials welcomed the state’s policy shift concerning fossil fuel production, and stand ready to work with the Governor. But they consider his actions to date baby steps.
The officials said transitioning to a clean energy economy will grow jobs, and stop grave environmental health injustices happening in low-income communities and communities of color which are disproportionately affected by fossil fuel production.
“We must start transitioning to renewable energy. It’s a golden opportunity to grow jobs, and improve the health and well-being of our citizens. We have the knowhow, now we need legislative action,” said Fireburgh Former Mayor and current City Councilmember Felipe Perez. “Renewables can help ensure everyone has clean water. It’s time for bold action from our governor.”
The push from elected officials comes after the Bureau of Land Management announced its analysis of the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas resources on public lands and Federal minerals within the planning area in California.
Despite its reputation as a global climate leader, California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states. Oil produced in California is some of the dirtiest and most climate-damaging crude in the world. Governor Newsom has taken small steps with the recent moratorium on certain types of drilling, yet there is no comprehensive plan to ramp down extraction. In fact, more than 21,000 permits for new drilling have been issued since 2011. Of these new oil and gas wells permitted by the state, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, and 67 percent are located in communities of color.
“We seriously need to reduce emissions and the only way to do that is to phase out the production and use of dirty fossil fuels. Gov. Newsom should take strong steps to protect Californians from the worsening effects of global climate chaos, which include fires, floods, drought and toxic air,” said Millbrae Vice Mayor Ann Schneider. “It’s outrageous, our kids can’t play outside on bad days. During those days the air is so dangerous our recreation, public works and landscape employees can’t work outdoors.”
Elected county, city, school board, and local officials from across the state, who launched Elected Officials to Protect California in 2018, are taking action both within their respective jurisdictions and across California to end the extraction of dirty fossil fuel that harms their constituents and the environment.
The most damaging health risks of oil and gas drilling occur within a one-half mile radius of active oil and gas development, according to the California Council on Science and Technology. Yet, California has no statewide policy limiting the proximity of drilling to homes, schools or other sensitive areas. According to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of California voters support phasing out oil and gas drilling within half a mile of homes, schools and other vulnerable sites.
More than 6 million people, including tens of thousands in California, marched in the September Climate Strike demanding action to phase out fossil fuels. More than 750 grassroots organizations in California and around the world are urging the Golden State to set a global precedent by announcing a statewide plan to completely phase-out existing dirty fuel production and enact 2,500 foot setbacks on drilling to protect public health and the climate.
The letter and signatories of Elected Officials to Protect California are at californiaelectedofficials.org.
Photo credit: Elected Officials to Protect California
October 28, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511