Over 315 bipartisan elected officials urge Gov. Newsom to take immediate action to protect communities suffering from deadly fossil fuel pollution now with setbacks

Newsom said he will move CA away from oil by 2045 — Bipartisan elected officials say that’s too late to protect children in frontline and fenceline communities from deadly pollution

On April 23, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom announced, “The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day. As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.” 

The governor’s tweet was proud that California was the first state to announce the phase out of oil production. He was equally proud to announce being the first state to stop selling gasoline cars after 2035. But Elected Officials to Protect America says being first, in phasing out of oil by 2045, could mean being the last state to do it. Oil is on the decline. 

According to Bloomberg, in 2019, the world financed $282 billion of renewable capacity, with onshore and offshore wind leading the way at $138 billion, followed by solar at $131 billion. These renewable investments dwarfed the estimated $100 billion of new finance for coal and gas power in 2019.  Continued investment in wind and solar will drive the renewable capacity to more than 55 percent by 2030 and 74 percent by 2050, globally. Oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge couldn’t even secure banks to back the project.

The California Chapter of Elected Official’s to Protect America sent a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to commit to phase out oil and gas production, transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, and establish safety setbacks of 2,500 feet. 

Over 350,000 students attend school within a mile of an active well, while over 120,000 students attend school within half a mile of an active well. The EOPA-CA letter has been signed by 320 elected officials and can be viewed here.

Dozens of peer-reviewed studies done in high oil-producing areas across the country have found that living close to a drilling site correlates with high rates of cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

“The science is clear. The Governor must live up to his moral obligation as an elected official to protect his citizens harmed the most by the toxic air caused by fossil fuels. People can’t wait until 2045 to phase out fossil fuels. They need immediate action—their lives depend on it.  The California Chapter of Elected Officials to Protect America urges the Governor to use his executive authority to end all new permits for oil and gas drilling, and establish 2,500 feet setbacks for all oil and gas operations now,” said Christian Brock, CEO of Elected Officials to Protect America, Air Force Veteran. “California should not miss this opportunity to lead on protecting her people from the dangers of fossil fuels and climate change.”

Californians overwhelmingly support taking these actions. The California Chapter of Elected Officials to Protect America represents more than 315 elected officials from 49 counties — half of all Californians.

The National Resources Defense Council report reveals that 14 percent of the state’s population, 5.4 million Californians, lives within a mile of at least one oil or gas well. Of that group, 69 percent, 3.7 million residents, are people of color, as of 2014. 

Last October a study, published in Cardiovascular Research estimated that 17 percent of deaths in North America from COVID-19 could be attributed to long-term air pollution exposure. Statewide the Latinx community represent 41.5 percent of people aged 35 to 49 years old, yet they account for about 74 percent of coronavirus deaths. Kern county is mainly Latinx. 

A  study from Harvard University, in collaboration with three English universities, found that one in five premature deaths can be attributed to fossil fuel air pollution. According to this new research, 34,000 people in California died in 2018 from fossil fuel air pollution prematurely – numbers three times higher than previously suggested by other studies. 

“The governor has listed 2045 as the date oil will be phased out. In just ten years, 2031, over 340,000 premature yet preventable deaths will have occurred. That’s totally unacceptable.  Families already suffer disproportionate illnesses like cancer, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. Children wake up in the night screaming from nosebleeds and find they’re short of breath,” said Kern County, Firebaugh CouncilmemberFelipe Perez. “With 40 thousand new oil and gas wells over the next 15 years just approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors what hope of a healthy future do communities of color who live amongst or near to these wells have? These environmental injustices must stop. Governor Newsom can, at the very least, use his executive powers to institute 2,500-foot safety setbacks from these deadly wells. He should also accelerate his oil phase out. 2045 will be too late for far too many.”

The governor used his executive powers to ban fracking after it failed to pass in the legislature this month. He could do the same for safety setbacks, as a measure for them also failed to pass in the legislature last year.

The revised Kern County ordinance could lead to approval of as many as 2,700 new wells a year. More than 30 percent of children under 17 are diagnosed with asthma in Kern, that’s more than double the rate across the state. The American Lung Association recently again gave Kern county an F rating for both ozone and particle pollution.

“For families who take their children to local parks or schools surrounded by oil and gas wells, which make their children sick, they need 2,500 feet setbacks established—yesterday. The stress, and anxiety of raising children in our county is something no one in California should have to deal with but we must. The Governor should use his executive powers to establish these setbacks,” said Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio, Co-chair of California’s Elected Officials to Protect America. “We must move away from oil and gas before 2045, with a just transition for workers. Senate Bill 467 showed us how—long before 2045. We need bold action from our governor, not more oil industry appeasement.”

For generations, spanning 8,000 square miles, Kern county has been known as the oil and agricultural capital of California. The county produces about 70 percent of the state’s oil and more than 90 percent of its natural gas. Heavy truck traffic, factory emissions, pesticide spraying and oil and gas drilling, combined with the geography of the land, all contribute to the area’s incredibly bad air quality.  

“For far too long my community has had to breathe in air that affluent neighborhoods wouldn’t put up with. We’re all equal in America. It’s time those who can lead do so. It’s time that they stand up for those whose voices have been muted by the influence of oil and gas corporations. We feed the world from Kern county. The Latinx community matters,” said Delano Councilmember Salvador Solorio-Ruiz, of Kern County, Leadership Council of California’s Elected Officials to Protect America. “California can achieve a swift, equitable end to oil and gas production. Recent legislation, Senate Bill-467 followed research that said it was possible by 2035, not 2045. Governor Newsom needs to move up his oil phase-out timeline. California should not miss this opportunity to lead.”

Senate Bill 467 anticipated a decline in production by phasing out the most dangerous forms of drilling, fracking, first. It would have created a mechanism for existing wells to expire as permits were not renewed, and provided a pathway for a just transition for workers who have been impacted by the fluctuating unstable oil industry for decades. In addition, it would have restricted all new or modified permits for oil and gas production within 2,500 foot safety setbacks of any residences, schools, health care facilities or long-term care institutions such as dormitories or prisons by January 1, 2023.

Governor Newsom failed to express his position on the bill, which ultimately led to its failure. Afterwards, to his credit, he did announce that California will stop issuing new hydraulic fracturing permits by January 2024.

SB- 467 would have saved more lives, as it’s time table was more aggressive. 

Senate Bill 467 was a step-by-step process to ensure a just transition for all involved.

  • Senate Bill 467 would have halted the issuance or renewal of permits for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steaming, and water and steam flooding starting July 1, 2023.
  • It would have phased out new permits for steam flood or water flood injection wells by January 1, 2035.
  • New permits for low pressure cyclic steam injection would have been phased out by January 1, 2027.
  • During the entire process, the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) would have been directed to identify oil and gas workers who have lost their jobs and offer incentives to well remediation contractors to prioritize the hiring of these identified former workers.

EOPA is a non-profit organization principally made up of 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, shares critical climate change information, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy.


April 27, 2021


Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Communications Director
Elected Officials to Protect America
Cell: 207.319.4727