Letter Says Keeping State’s Fossil Fuels in the Ground Necessary to Protect Public Health and Lead on Climate Change
OAKLAND, Calif.— Echoing severe concerns that fossil fuel production threatens the health and safety of residents, scores of Bay Area officials are joining with more than 150 local officials from a majority of counties across California calling on Governor Jerry Brown calling for a statewide plan to phase out oil and gas drilling.
“The growing network of state, county, and city officials, Elected Officials to Protect California, is taking action both within their respective districts and across California to end the extraction of dirty fossil fuel that harms their constituents and the environment,” according to a news release from Elected Officials to Protect California. “The network is urging Gov. Brown to take the first step by halting permits for new fossil fuel projects, prohibiting drilling within 2,500 feet of homes and vulnerable areas and committing the state to 100 percent renewable energy.”
“Despite its reputation as a global climate leader, California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states. As we see the crisis of growing fires, we should take the opportunity to improve both our economy and our public health by moving toward more sustainable transportation and energy strategies that benefit our community,” said Rebecca Kaplan, Councilmember, City of Oakland.
Oil produced in California is some of the dirtiest and most climate-damaging crude oil in the world, yet there are currently no plans to ramp down extraction. In fact, during the Brown administration, more than 20,000 permits for new drilling have been issued. Gov. Brown has previously stated that he is committed to decarbonizing the world – we’re asking him to take action to solidify his commitment.
“Climate change is no longer something in our future, it is here now,” said Cheryl Davila, Vice Mayor, City of Berkeley. “California is experiencing warmer temperature, more fires, and droughts.”
In addition to the climate damage caused by California’s dirty fuel extraction, thousands of oil and gas wells operate next to homes and schools, releasing toxic air pollutants that cause cancer, asthma, and other health problems. Drilling often occurs disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color who already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation.
“It’s not just an environmental justice matter to care about the change and take action, it’s a moral imperative,” said Dan Kalb, Councilmember, City of Oakland. “Governor Brown has taken positive action to address climate change, but we need more, California needs to phase fossil fuels and phase up, renewable energy and clean transportation.”
Though the most significant health risks occur within a one-half mile radius of active oil and gas development, 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.
“Environmental justice is a matter of survival – California oil is among the dirtiest crude in the entire world producing more pollutants and destructive gas than any other, three quarters of fracking wells in California are within 600 meters of groundwater sources; this threatens our water supply,” said Jovanka Beckles, Councilmember, City of Richmond. “California oil drilling disproportionately affects low-income communities of color, which is why we see this as a systemic form of environmental racism.”
The elected leaders noted that phasing out fossil fuel extraction would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state through increased investment in renewable energy, clean vehicles and buildings, energy efficiency, public transportation and other innovative solutions.
“This is not just a crisis, this is an emergency – We call upon Gov Brown to recognize the emergency that faces the planet the impacts upon our health, our drinking water, and the environment, his Global Climate Action Summit is the perfect opportunity,” said Jesse Arreguin, Mayor of Berkeley.
More than 800 environmental, public health and community groups have joined the “Brown’s Last Chance” campaign similarly demanding that Gov. Brown halt new oil and gas drilling in the state and devise a fair and equitable plan to phase it out entirely. If Gov. Brown does not act, he will lose those groups’ support for his Global Climate Action Summit in September.
The full letter and list of signatories of Elected Officials to Protect California is available at: http://californiaelectedofficials.org/
Background: Brown received $9.8 million from oil and gas cos. and utilities
While Governor Jerry Brown receives accolades for his frequent speeches at climate conferences around the world, he is in reality a recipient of millions of dollars of Big Oil and Big Gas money that has promoted the expansion of offshore and onshore drilling in California in his third and fourth terms as Governor.
Consumer Watchdog's report, "Brown's Dirty Hands," reveals how Brown and his top appointees used the California Democratic Party (CDP) as a “slush fund, sucking in contributions from unpopular energy companies in close proximity, and sometimes on the same day, that his Administration helped those companies in controversial ways.”
“Twenty-six energy companies including Occidental, Chevron, NRG and the state's three major investor-owned utilities - all with business before the state - donated $9.8 million to Jerry Brown's campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor. Donations were often made within days or weeks of winning favors. The three major investor-owned utilities alone contributed nearly $6 million,” according to the report. “Between 2011 and 2014, the energy companies tracked by Brown's Dirty Hands donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown's re-election committee.”
Since Consumer Watchdog’s report was released in 2016, both the California Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have adopted bans on fossil fuel donations, due to political pressure from Oil Money Out and other organizations: www.huffingtonpost.com/…
However, the DNC later reversed the earlier ban on fossil fuel donations: thehill.com/...
Meanwhile, the oil industry, the most powerful corporate lobby in California, continues to spend millions of dollars on lobbying each Legislative Session and on political campaigns each election season in California. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations. For more information, go to: www.dailykos.com/…