In this moment of reckoning for the energy future of America, Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA) joins indigenous and front-lines organizers in celebrating victories over unjust and exploitative pipelines. With the tide of public opinion now clearly opposed to carbon emissions, and the oil industry’s devastating reevaluations, the vise-like grip of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying influence is weakening at last.
“We need to rid ourselves of the chokehold fossil fuel corporations have on our economy and transition to a safer, more equitable California with 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, we have the power to do this. Now we need the political will,” said Elected Officials to Protect California Steering Committee Member and San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon. “We can create hundreds of thousands of jobs with training for people whose employment won’t be coming back because of the pandemic. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.”
The tide is turning. The 8 billion dollar Atlantic Coast Pipeline was abruptly canceled after years of pressure from indigenous groups and organizers. Dominion, the principal corporation behind the exploitative fracked-gas pipeline, jettisoned future projects like it, scrambling to distance itself from natural gas. The Dakota Access Pipeline, whose unjust path violated Native sovereignty, threatened public health, and was met with sweeping protest by Indigenous peoples like the Standing Rock Sioux, was handed a devastating ruling requiring it to run dry of oil by next month. A bid to restart construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline was utterly shut down. In light of these failures, the changing energy landscape, and the unacceptable fact that fossil fuel pipelines cause an explosion every 11 days and a fatality every 26 days in America, analysis by Bloomberg finds that “U.S. pipelines are becoming increasingly unbuildable.” Worldwide, the downward spiral of fossil fuels worsened, as giants Shell and BP wrote off $40 billion of their assets as unrecoverable, a far cry from a once-militant optimism envisioning endless growth.
Two thirds of Americans believe current steps to combat the climate crisis and protect our lands and waters are insufficient. The concurrent crises of COVID, mass unemployment, and racial justice uprisings are forcing the nation to reckon with the status quo. Elected Officials to Protect America knows we must reject ‘back to normal’ and instead, build a better world. After all, the old one based on fossil fuels is already crumbling. Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons put it plainest: “the facts have never been more clear: fracked gas has no role in our energy future.”
Local organizers, tribal leaders, and community elected officials applied courageous and ceaseless pressure and big oil ultimately caved. Utility companies scrambled to distance themselves from volatile, exploitative extractive industries. This injustice is nothing new, but now the world is paying attention.
We’ve been imagining America’s bold future free from fossil fuel dependence since our beginning. EOPCA members have united to demand an end to fossil fuels’ vicious cycle of exploitation and dependence.
Nationally, over 410 elected officials have signed our National Climate Justice Sign-on Letter demanding a just transition. Since the Brown Administration, EOPCA has pushed for transparency, accountability, and an energy regime which protects our public health. Now is the moment to propel our state forward and ensure the future our children deserve. Fracking has no future — and a horrific past and present, generating serious health problems, especially for minority communities. It’s killing Californians.
We’ve urged Governor Newsom in a letter 310 + of us signed to: 1) End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, 2) Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer zone to protect public health and address the severe environmental injustice of production in low-income communities and communities of color, and 3) Commit the state to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We demand action.
Governor Newsom must seize the chance to lead. Across the nation, despite the insidious and constant influence of oil companies, Americans are mobilizing for change. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which was recently approved by the Supreme Court, would have clearcut and blasted through precious, vulnerable landscapes — including Black, low-income, and indigenous communities, national forests, and 34 crossings of the iconic Appalachian Trail. Now it is dead. It’s an outcome that seemed impossible, brought about by fierce resistance from communities written off as expendable and growing evidence that fracked gas is a bad deal.
The historically Black community of Union Hill rose up against the insidiously unjust placement of a compressor statement in their culturally-rich town. A quarter of North Carolina’s Native population lived within a mile of the pipeline’s proposed path, and the Lumbee, Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, and Meherrin Tribes organized for years to keep permits off their sovereign land. There was overwhelming local opposition, and a broad coalition of environmental groups with petitions hundreds of thousands strong. The pipeline even drew high-profile opponents such as the Reverend William Barber II, National Board Member of the NAACP and former Vice President Al Gore, who called the whole affair a “reckless, racist rip-off.”
“They chose a pathway that goes through the most economically depressed towns and vulnerable communities in Appalachia on purpose,” said Danielle I. A. Adams, EOPA National Board Member and North Carolina Soil and Water Supervisor. “Communities who are already marginalized, who are already economically depressed, who are already vulnerable to racial violence, the impacts of climate change. It’s very precise in who they’re denying their rights, and they’re doing it because they don’t have political clout.“
Yet even with eight permits unresolved and a massively bloated budget, it seemed that Dominion and Duke Energy would push ahead, aided and abetted by federal and state administrations. But as global fossil fuel assets went into free-fall and the court of public opinion demanded a shift to renewables, it was no longer certain they could recoup costs from ratepayers. That threat sent them running scared. The ACP was not abandoned because of the threat it posed to generations of cultural heritage, iconic landmarks like AT, and the public safety of vulnerable communities. Dominion jumped ship because constant pressure from dedicated organizers, seismic shifts in global markets and the court of public opinion threatened their profits.
People power has won big in two other major pipeline verdicts, following swiftly on the heels of the ACP’s cancellation. The Dakota Access Pipeline, a sprawling, leaking, affront to native sovereignty, was at long last brought to a grinding halt. Courts ruled that due to insufficient adherence to environmental standards, oil must stop flowing by August 5th. It was a massive blow for the industry and a long-overdue victory for the Indigenous water defenders who have been on the front lines opposing it from the very beginning. The Keystone XL Pipeline, long stalled because of its woefully inadequate environmental protections, was dealt another blow despite the Trump Administration’s attempt to bolster it.
Grassroots organizers, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups tirelessly worked to upend the status quo. Unfortunately some officials elected to represent them often fought against them. In the midst of this crisis, Governor Newsom issued new fracking permits in California and the Trump administration moved to open massive tracts of Alaskan reserves to drilling. These high-profile victories came right after the financial and regulatory coronavirus relief from the Federal government gave oil companies big boons — despite the horrible irony that these polluting industries may have contributed to a higher death rate from the virus.
“The failing fossil fuel industry that is driving catastrophic climate change has received $1.9 billion in bailouts with public money. It has to stop,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, former Culver City Mayor, and current council member. “It’s time to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all Californians — not corporations. Let’s start by ending fracking. All the governor needs to do is sign an executive order.”
Our elected officials network of veterans and front-line lawmakers from diverse backgrounds are listening to their communities. EOPCA members acting on what they’ve heard call for the phasing out of all fossil fuels now. They have the people’s mandate to act on climate change. They know we cannot allow the fossil fuel industry to maintain its stranglehold and prevent the work that needs to be done to transform our energy infrastructure and its unjust repercussions for our country’s most vulnerable.
We take these pipeline victories as a call to further action. No longer will we accept this entrenched and systemic propping-up of the energy status quo. In the throes of crisis, a chorus of experts, scientists, policy-makers and economists alike, are calling for a transformation of our world. Where the ACP died, state legislatures are turning to clean and plentiful energy from offshore windfarms, where despite COVID-19, global investments have quadrupled this year. Where DAPL will soon sit, silent and empty, the US’ massive solar potential could light the western skies. Phasing out fossil fuel reliance is essential. With today’s failing industry and the urgent climate crisis, what once was easy money from oil and gas is now a massive liability
The evidence is clear and only growing. To safeguard our future, we must leave the failure and injustice of the state’s dependency on the fossil fuel industry behind.
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.
July 16, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, Elected Officials to Protect America Cell: 207.319.4511