On Thursday, September 5, public school teachers and students from around California will “leave behind their toys to symbolize how Big Oil has stolen their childhood,” as part of their testimony to the Investment Committee meeting of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), according to a statement from the Fossil Free California coalition.
The teachers and students are demanding that CalSTRS divest $6 billion from fossil fuel corporations. Their action will highlight how the second-largest pension in the U.S, continues to censor testimony from youth.
The event will feature an intergenerational group of activists with colorful artwork, puppets, banners, and oil barrels. Youth ages 10-18, with dozens of stuffed toys (some possibly standing in for CalSTRS board members) will show up at 100 Waterfront Place, West Sacramento, CA at approximately 11:30 AM, Thursday, September 5, 2019.
The activists will include Youth from Youth vs. Apocalypse, Warriors 4 Justice, Earth Guardians Bay Area, and Sunrise Movement Sacramento, Jane Vosburg of Fossil Free California, CalSTRS member teachers from California Teachers’ Association, NEA/Retired and California Federation of Teachers.
“The students will be expressing their frustration with CalSTRS’ refusal to divest over $6 billion it currently holds in risky and financially underperforming fossil fuel companies,” according to the coalition. “They are also outraged with CalSTRS’ new policy that prohibits the recording or live streaming of anyone under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent. As each youth steps to the podium to deliver testimony, they will leave behind a toy to highlight the loss of their generation’s stolen childhoods.”
Elliot, a 14-year-old ninth grader, says, “We really resent having to do the work that adults should be doing. But we are ready to do whatever it takes to protect our future, and the future for our own children. The science is clear: if we don’t act now, it’ll be too late.”
“Like Greta Thunberg, I’m skipping school to speak to the Board, hoping they will hear our voices, because we are the ones who will be impacted most by their decisions,” said Magdalena, an 11-year-old activist with Earth Guardians Bay Area and one of the #climatestrike youth whose visit to Dianne Feinstein earlier this year went viral. “CalSTRS has a powerful opportunity to be the leaders we need right now -- but at the last two meetings they wouldn’t even record what we said. Other CalSTRS teachers don’t know that we are even in the meetings and that makes me really angry.” Magdalena’s parents have offered CalSTRS signed consent for her testimony to be recorded, which has been denied.
Youth, teachers and their allies plan to arrive at CalSTRS at 10:30am. They hope to deliver testimony at approximately 11:30am, and plan to leave at 1:30pm because they need to return to their schools. CalSTRS has indicated that the Investment Committee may not accommodate the students’ request to hear their testimony before their bus departs for school; however the youth are prepared to hold a creative and theatrical alternative action to ensure that their urgent messages are heard.
Video footage of prior censored CalSTRS testimony by Magdalena and others: bit.ly/CalSTRS-May9-2019 and bit.ly/CalSTRS-July11-2019
Demand for divestment takes place as oil and gas drilling expands in California
The campaign for fossil fuel divestment from comes in the wake of increased opposition by environmental justice, conservation and public interest groups to the expansion of onshore and offshore drilling in California under Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom. Despite California’s “green” image, Governor Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved over 21,000 new oil and gas wells, including over 200 new offshore wells, according to a 2018 analysis of Department of Conservation data by the Fracktracker Alliance.
Rather than decreasing the number of oil drilling permits approved, the Newsom administration in fact doubled the numbers of fracking permits issued during Newsom’s first five months as Governor, as documented in my article on a groundbreaking report by Consumer Watchdog and the Fractracker Alliance: www.dailykos.com/…
From January 1 to June 3 of 2018, the State’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) approved 2,365 new oil and gas well permits and 191 fracking permits, according to Department of Conservation data analyzed by the two groups.
The data reveals that this year regulators have increased the number of permits granted for drilling new wells by 35.3%, well reworks by 28.3%, and fracking by 103.2%, as compared to the permitting rate during the final year of the Brown administration in 2018.
Of the 2,365 well permits issued, 1064 or 45% of them benefitted oil companies invested in by eight senior DOGGR officials.
After the two groups exposed the expansion of oil and gas drilling and big conflicts of interests by senior DOGGR officials, Newsom fired Ken Harris, the head of DOGGR.
Background: Big Oil has captured the regulatory apparatus in California
The conflicts of interest by eight DOGGR officials revealed in the report are only the latest in series of conflicts of interests held by state regulatory officials. In one of the biggest apparent conflicts of interest of the past 20 years, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create faux “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp).
Her organization was promoting the expansion of offshore fracking and drilling at the same time that she led the task force to create “marine protected areas” in the same region from 2009 to 2012. Reheis-Boyd also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.
It is no surprise that these faux “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil and gas drilling, pollution, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering — and that over 200 new offshore oil and gas wells were approved by Brown administration oil and gas regulators after the so-called “marine protected areas” went into effect.
The oil industry is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento and the Western States Petroleum Association, the trade association for the oil industry in California and other Western states, is the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization.
From 2001 to 2017 Chevron and AERA contributed $129 million of the $170 million spent by oil and gas interests to fund California political campaigns, according to Consumer Watchdog and the Fractracker Alliance. The Western States Petroleum Association, the oil and gas trade association of which Chevron and AERA are members, was the top-spending lobbyist in Sacramento in 5 of the last 7 election cycles.
WSPA has spent a total $83,107,421 lobbying since 2005. Chevron spent $44,876,606 in that period; Aera spent $5,627,258.56.
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.
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