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Elected officials say leading on climate means ending drilling that harms climate, communities
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Days after Governor Jerry Brown hosted the U.N. Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, 250 mayors, county supervisors, and elected officials from a majority of counties across California are urging the Governor to walk his talk on climate leadership by creating a statewide plan to phase out oil and gas drilling that is harming public health and worsening climate change.
“The Governor says that no state has done more on climate change,” said Culver City Vice Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect California. “Tell that to the 5.4 million Californians that live with a mile of oil and gas wells, including in my community, breathing poisoned air from dirty drilling.”
A growing bipartisan network of state, county, and city officials, which launched as Elected Officials to Protect California in June, is continuing to press Gov. Brown and the state of California more broadly to end oil and gas drilling after the Summit.
“This summit brought the clear message that leaders everywhere must pledge to do everything to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Carmen Ramirez, Mayor pro tem of Oxnard. “Half measures won’t get us where we desperately need to be to protect the future.”
The officials are 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. The network is asking 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.
“Governor Brown has been a global champion for climate action, and now we need him to be our champion for California,” said Hillary Ronen, San Francisco Supervisor. “We’re joining with hundreds of elected officials across California calling on Governor Brown to start phasing out oil and gas production in order to protect our public health and communities.”
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, 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.
“Governor Brown stood up to Trump’s offshore drilling plans, yet he has permitted 20,000 wells onshore in the middle of our communities, which are poisoning our families,” said Jovanka Beckles, Councilmember of Richmond. “We need Governor Brown to act now to phase out refinery and drilling pollution by ending new permitting of drilling.”
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.
“100% clean energy means no new fossil fuels. You cannot claim to be a climate leader and frack and drill our state,” said Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez, Azusa School Board Vice-President. ”Climate leadership in California means stopping the drilling that’s poisoning our families.”
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.
“Much of the fossil fuel production in the Bay Area and California happens in low-income communities of color that receive few economic benefits but must suffer from the deadly pollutants emitted,” said Sandra Fewer, San Francisco Supervisor. “The history of fossil fuel production in the State of California is a history of the worst form of environmental injustice.”
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.
“We regularly hear from constituents about the tremendous burdens that fossil fuel production places on our communities and public health, especially low-income communities and communities of color,” said Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA17). “Transformative climate leadership must include bold action on the production side of fossil fuels. California can lead the way on limiting fossil fuel extraction just as we have led in the transition to renewable energy by ending the issuance of new permits for fossil fuel development and infrastructure.”
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.
“California has never been afraid to lead,” said San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman “The world is counting on us to take the first step and start phasing out the dirty oil and gas production that is the source of the climate emergency and deadly pollution. We need Governor Brown to act now to protect our communities and public health.”