Governor Newsom announces statewide 3,200-foot setback between communities and oil and gas drilling – The Climate Center response

Wilmington, CA — Today, Governor Newsom announced that California’s oil regulator, California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), has released a draft health and safety rule recommending a mandated 3,200-foot distance between new oil and gas extraction sites and the places where people live, work, and play.

According to the Associated Press, the 32,400 wells within 3,200 feet of community sites account for about one-third of the state’s oil extraction. The draft rule announced today would not ban wells already operating in that zone but would add new pollution controls.

In response, Woody Hastings, Energy Program Manager at The Climate Center, said:

“Oil and gas companies have polluted California’s frontline communities for far too long. This rule is a victory for community health advocates and a critical recognition that people’s well-being must come before polluter profits. We thank Governor Newsom for taking this long-awaited first step to address environmental injustice. Now, we urge him to continue by rapidly phasing out fossil fuels from all sectors of our economy, halting all permits for new oil and gas projects, and investing in a just transition for impacted workers and their families.”

Governor Newsom directed CalGEM to undertake a rulemaking process to strengthen public health and environmental protections more than two years ago. Since then, more than 40,000 Californians have submitted public comments urging the governor to put people before polluters and end neighborhood drilling. Pollution from oil and gas drilling disproportionately impacts the state’s Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous communities.

ENDS

Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Communications Director, The Climate Center: ryan@theclimatecenter.org, (415) 342-2386

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org

Oil pipeline spills 126,000 gallons off the coast of Orange County – The Climate Center response

On Sunday, October 3, an oil pipeline operated by Beta Offshore — a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation — spilled at least 126,000 gallons into the Pacific Ocean. Oil is expected to continue washing onto local beaches for several more days, along with dead wildlife and toxic fumes. 

In response, The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen said:

“When oil devastates the beaches and wildlife of Orange County and when fire and smoke threaten Lake Tahoe, it’s national news. And what has happened in Orange County is indeed a terrible tragedy. But every day in California, lower-income communities and communities of color in Fresno, Kern County, and elsewhere suffer from the impacts of oil and gas extraction and the consequences of their use. It is long past time for Governor Newsom to permanently halt the permitting of any new oil and gas wells or infrastructure in the state. We have the solutions. We just need the political will to secure an equitable, healthy, climate-safe future for all.”

ENDS

Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Communications Director, The Climate Center: ryan@theclimatecenter.org, (415) 342-2386

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org

The California climate bills that passed — and failed — in 2021

With the crack of the gavel last Friday night, California’s 2021 legislative session came to a close. Overall, this was a lackluster year for climate action in the California legislature. The most ambitious climate bills — including a measure that would have set a net-negative emissions target, the most ambitious climate goal in the country — fell by the wayside. The state budget, however, does include significant investments into zero-emission transportation and allocations directed toward climate resilience, with the promise of additional funding in later years. But given this year’s record budget surplus, more should have been done to address the climate crisis. 

Even in the face of a “code red warning for humanity,” oil and gas corporations and their allies once again combined to derail climate action in California. California has the tools and know-how to lead the world in combating the climate crisis, but we need politicians who are willing to stand up to the oil and gas industry.

With that in mind, here are some important highlights from this year’s legislative session, as well as what to look out for in 2022. 

https://twitter.com/climatecampaign/status/1437468446015381507

Climate Targets and Timelines

The primary goal of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign is to make California the first state in the nation to become carbon negative. That would mean we remove more climate pollution from the atmosphere than we release, which the latest science says is achievable by 2030. This year saw the introduction of two bills that focused on carbon targets, both of which were thwarted by oil and gas interests and their allies. The more ambitious of the two, SB 582 (Stern), would have made California the first state in the country with a net-negative emissions target. It also would have required an 80 percent reduction of statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

The Assembly also introduced its own climate targets bill, AB 1395 (Muratsuchi). Although it was not as ambitious as SB 582, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2045, AB 1395 was the last major climate bill standing at the end of session. The bill was again opposed by fossil fuel corporations and their allies, who succeeded in preventing the bill from passing off the Senate floor late on Friday night. 

Despite setbacks in the legislature, our efforts to educate policymakers about the latest science and the need to act are beginning to change the conversation. Following a briefing by The Climate Center and leading California-based climate scientists earlier this summer, Governor Newsom issued an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to evaluate achieving carbon neutrality by 2035, a full decade faster than existing state policy requires. The fight to accelerate equitable climate action is certain to continue in 2022.   

Energy and Resilience

Decarbonizing the energy sector is critical to a climate-safe future. A variety of energy bills were introduced this year, most of which were once again obstructed by oil and gas interests. SB 99 (Dodd), a measure sponsored by The Climate Center that would have supported grants and technical assistance for local governments to do clean energy resilience planning, died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. A bill that would have streamlined permitting for rooftop solar installations, SB 617 (Wiener), was stymied in the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB 612 (Portantino), a measure tackling unfair charges for community choice aggregation customers, was not even given a hearing in the Assembly policy committee. 

There is some good news, though. Two bills related to improving climate resilience in vulnerable communities — AB 1087 (Chiu) and AB 585 (L. Rivas) — stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but ideas from these bills were incorporated into the state budget. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now set aside to fund community resilience hubs and programs to mitigate the impacts of life-threatening heat. 

Phasing Out Oil and Gas

Despite clear calls from scientists to phase out polluting fossil fuels, attempts to rein in California’s oil and gas production met heavy resistance this year. One of the most ambitious bills introduced, SB 467 (Wiener), would have imposed public health setbacks on oil and gas extraction operations and prohibited fracking. It failed to get out of its first policy committee hearing due to intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry and state building trades unions. 

Two more modest but important bills did make it through to the governor’s desk. SB 47 (Limón) increased the amount of money a key regulatory agency, the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), can spend on plugging abandoned oil and gas wells. AB 896 (Bennet) delegated additional authority to CalGEM to remediate idle oil and gas wells and expanded its ability to utilize tax liens to recover costs for the clean-up of idle wells. Both bills will help prevent pollution from abandoned wells and protect public health in frontline communities.

Transportation

The transportation sector, one of the largest climate polluters in California, saw mixed results in this year’s legislative session. Two companion bills, SB 726 (Lena Gonzalez) and AB 1389 (Reyes), would have required stronger coordination on zero-emission vehicle funding between state agencies and the modernization of a clean transportation grant program at the California Energy Commission. Both were put on pause this year in order to allow for time to negotiate the extension of a revenue stream for clean vehicle programs. 

In the wins column, SB 372 (Leyva) authorizes the creation of a program to make it easier for fleets that utilize medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to transition to zero-emission technologies. SB 500 (Min) will ensure that beginning in 2031, autonomous light-duty vehicles will receive permits from the DMV only if they are zero-emission. The biggest victory for zero-emission transportation, however, came in the budget, where $3.9 billion was allocated over three years.

Sequestration and Natural and Working Lands

There is tremendous potential to store carbon in California’s soils and habitats. But up until now, there’s been little investment or planning relating to these nature-based solutions. The passage of SB 27 (Skinner) will result in the state adopting its first-ever sequestration target, as well as developing a natural and working lands strategy and facilitating the development of sequestration projects that utilize natural and working lands. And while not focused on natural and working lands, SB 596 (Becker) is a critical measure tackling the highly polluting concrete manufacturing sector, requiring the state to adopt a strategy to decarbonize that market and to set emissions reduction targets for the sector. Both bills are on their way to the governor’s desk. 

Despite the successes of those two bills, several bills focused on natural and working lands did not make it through the process. AB 284 (R. Rivas), would have required CARB to update its 2022 Scoping Plan with goals for natural and working lands, as well as develop standardized methods to count emissions reductions associated with natural and working lands. This bill was put on pause on the Senate floor in the last days of the session. AB 125 (R. Rivas) would have put a $3 billion bond on the ballot, with the goal of funding a more climate-focused, resilient, and equitable food and farm system. It failed to clear its second policy committee hearing in the Assembly. 

California’s Budget

California had a record-shattering $75 billion budget surplus this year. Although there were some significant investments made, policymakers could have done far more to prioritize the climate crisis with a surplus of this size. Budget allocations were broken up into investment “packages” that will be spread across three years, with the allocations for future years requiring appropriations in future legislative sessions. 

The climate resilience package will see a total investment of $3.69 billion over three years, with $369.2 million allocated this year. This funding will go toward an array of programs, ranging from solutions to mitigate extreme heat to preparing for sea level rise. Another critical part of the resilience package is funding for nature-based solutions that will help safely store carbon in our natural and working lands. These programs will receive over half a billion dollars in the coming years. The Climate Center succeeded in helping to secure $25 million for resilience planning grants to local and regional governments as part of this fiscal year’s appropriation.

For its transportation package, the legislature allocated $2.7 billion this year toward zero-emission vehicles, with a strong focus on shifting trucks and buses to zero-emission technologies. These funds will also help in the deployment of the infrastructure needed to support the growth of the zero-emission vehicle population. In total, the transportation investment will reach $3.9 billion over three years.

The Road Ahead

While this was a disappointing legislative session, the conversation about how to act on climate is changing. The rapidly shifting realities of climate change — from catastrophic wildfires to simmering heat domes to unprecedented floods — are making the once-abstract warnings from scientists very real. 

Oil and gas interests continue to stand in the way of progress, but their hold on Sacramento is slipping. To erode their influence once and for all, we need to band together with our allies across the state to form a united movement in support of truly ambitious climate policies. It’s vital for each and every one of us to show legislators that we’ve got their backs when they stand up to the oil and gas industry. At the same time, we can send a message to legislators that are on the fence that we’ll stand with them when they take tough votes in favor of climate action. 

Thank you for your support this past year, and to everyone who took action for a climate-safe future for all. Be sure to check The Climate Center’s legislative tracker as we gear up to fight for bold, equitable climate policies in 2022.

A unanimous mistake for Kern County

On Monday, March 8th, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass a revised ordinance supported by oil industry interests to approve over 2,700 new oil wells per year. This amounts to 40,000 new wells by 2036. 

Hundreds of constituents and community leaders spoke out against the ordinance in a daylong board meeting. Many environmental leaders argued that the ordinance would only increase health impacts to surrounding communities as well as cause detriment to the local environment.

Oil wells and hydraulic fracking chemicals contaminate the ground water and drinking water for neighboring communities. These chemicals can potentially lead to cancer, birth defects, and liver damage. In regard to air quality, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides are released into the air and most families living near these sites experience asthma, and other respiratory illness. These families are experiencing long time exposure and it’s non-occupational, just living day in and day out near these wells is harmful. The development of oil and gas can also cause long-term damage to our public lands by disturbing the land, increasing erosion, and stripping vegetation.

Kern County produces 80% of California’s oil and gas. These vested industry interests hold financial clout in the region and that was very apparent with the unanimous decision made by the Kern County Board of Supervisors. 

However, there is hope on the horizon with new legislation: Senate Bill 467 introduced by Senator Scott Wiener and Senator Monique Limón. This bill would halt the renewal of permits for hydraulic fracking starting on January 1, 2022. The bill also restricts all new or modified permits for oil and gas production creating a 2,500 feet buffer zone from any school, community residence, or healthcare facility. 

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign includes the equitable phase-out of fossil fuels with a Just Transition for workers as the first step toward a healthy and vibrant climate-safe future for all Californians. We are working with partners to secure more legislation to this end. We continue to build support for our Climate-Safe California campaign to show that across the state, Californians want an equitable clean energy future. Show your support today by endorsing Climate-Safe California.

Kern County residents who have been failed by their elected representatives and other Californians on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, production, and use are counting on us all to support an end to our fossil fuel reliance. Let’s not let them down.

 

The data debunks the denial: Bold climate action sooner costs less in dollars and lives

In reaction to a historical day of climate policy action by the Biden Administration, some loud political and media voices continue to claim that climate action is too costly.

These claims are idiocy.

At this moment, we must remind naysayers that study after study shows the huge costs of waiting to act and points not only to the feasibility of doing so, but also to the moral imperative as fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts hit the poor the hardest.  Especially here in California– a massive oil-producing state– we must continue to pressure our legislators to prioritize an equitable phase out of fossil fuels with a Just Transition.

A new report from Energy Innovation shows that the cumulative cost of delaying the decarbonization of our economy until 2030 are 72% higher than the cost of starting now ($4.5 trillion vs $8 trillion). This should come as no surprise considering that in 2020 alone, the estimated cost of wildfires just in the U.S. is $130 to $150 billion.

Two other recent reports also illustrate the economic advantages of moving to net-zero emissions sooner rather than later.

New research published by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the University of San Francisco (USF), and the consulting firm Evolved Energy Research indicates that rebuilding U.S. energy infrastructure to run primarily on renewable energy can be done at a net cost of about $1 per person per day.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050 is feasible and would not only help address climate change, but also build a more competitive economy, increase high-quality jobs, and help address social injustice in the energy system. The committee that wrote the report emphasized that immediate action and proactive innovation are required. The Climate Center agrees, but supports a target date of 2030 to better align with the science and current climate reality.

Starting the transition to all renewables right now also makes a lot of sense if we want to avoid getting stuck with expensive and worthless infrastructure. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry recently warned that continuing to build out natural gas infrastructure runs the risk of creating stranded assets in the future.

Climate action has already helped some fossil fuel-dependent communities weather the COVID-19 recession. When the pandemic hit Cheyenne, Wyoming, the city’s treasurer, Robin Lockman estimated that the city might lose up to 25% of its budget as tax revenues slowed and the prices of oil, gas and coal plummeted, eliminating royalties the city usually receives from the extraction of those resources. But the huge deficit never arrived. Between July and September, the city instead saw a 20.5% increase in tax revenue compared to 2019. In September alone, the increase was $1.4 million or 83% due to the Roundhouse Wind Project. Over the last decade, investors have laid the groundwork for wind farms across Wyoming.

California’s own rich solar and wind resources are not being fully utilized yet, but once they are, the development of these renewable energy resources will protect the state against dry coffers when fossil fuel demand dries up. Communities such as Kern County rely heavily on income from oil extraction– despite terrible health impacts for community members. This explains the resistance to renewables in those communities, but if the state were to prioritize rapid fossil fuel phase-out with Climate Justice and a Just Transition, these communities would be able to weather economic downturns and protect their most vulnerable from adverse health impacts. A recent study found that in 2018 alone, fossil fuels caused 8.7 million premature deaths globally.

Whether you ask an economist or a doctor, the answer is the same– fossil fuels must go and sooner is better. Endorse our Climate-Safe California platform today and support a vibrant, healthy, and just future for all.

 

Equitable clean energy– support this new bill

Technology and market trends of this moment are laying the groundwork for a clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe electricity grid in California. Unfortunately, our laws are sabotaging us.

The failings of our archaic electrical system, which ignited many of California’s recent wildfires, are causing homeowners, businesses, hospitals, firefighters, and others to buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators– increasing emissions that drive climate change and making fires worse.

Right now California regulators are considering new contracts for fossil fuel-powered plants in response to last summer’s blackouts. This is a big step in the wrong direction.

Instead, California policy should help local governments and stakeholders develop clean energy resilience plans that address climate change while prioritizing our most vulnerable communities.

Senate Bill 99, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd and sponsored by The Climate Center, will help local governments do just that by providing them with the technical tools and support to develop their own community energy resilience plans, rather than relying on investor-owned utilities.

While many wealthier communities have access to clean energy and energy storage, California can and must prioritize equitable access to clean energy resilience for communities that suffer most from air pollution and power outages. Senate Bill 99 prioritizes support for these communities.

Support Senate Bill 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act now.

The technology needed to create this new decentralized energy future is available now. The energy storage industry is booming with microgrid projects proliferating and an accelerated transition to electric vehicles globally.

General Motors’ recent announcement committing to selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 and President Biden’s plan for an all-electric federal fleet present the possibility of quickly scaling up electric vehicle adoption and thus, battery storage for energy resilience.

Support The Climate Center’s policy leadership to secure local clean energy and storage.

Automakers and charging infrastructure manufacturers are already developing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which could be used by utilities to minimize power outages and effectively capture, store and send solar energy back to the grid during peak demand hours.

For example, if all of California’s 24,000 school buses were electric and able to discharge energy to the electric grid during peak hours, we could substantially reduce chances of blackouts, help fight climate change, and avoid local air pollution, all at the same time.

Help us secure policies like SB99 for equitable community energy resilience!

To achieve widespread adoption of clean energy microgrids, our state’s broken regulations must be fixed. New forward-thinking policies can ensure that every community can install renewables and storage where they need it most.

The Climate Center is working with diverse partners across the state to secure the needed policies for equitable access to resilient clean energy.

Make a donation todaysupport Senate Bill 99, and if you haven’t already, endorse Climate-Safe California!

With gratitude,

Ellie

Ellie Cohen, CEO

Upcoming Climate Center webinars to focus on climate science and fossil fuel phaseout

The Climate Center is kicking off its Climate Safe California winter webinar series with the first two webinars focused on climate science and a just transition away from the fossil energy era.

Webinar 1. What the Science Requires

The first titled “What the Science Requires” will take place on Tuesday, January 26th, 10am – 11am.

In this webinar Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will discuss the most recent climate science, explore some of the implications of what we face, and address the urgent need for accelerated action. Mr. Santer is an award winning climate scientist who has stood up to the Trump administration’s attempts to muzzle him and his colleagues by speaking truth to power and just conduct good science.

Jason Barbose, Senior Policy Manager, Western States at Union of Concerned Scientists, will address some of the legislative and regulatory campaigns underway in California to meaningfully address the climate crisis, focusing on clean energy and sustainable transportation.

Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center CEO, will offer a brief overview of the Climate-Safe California suite of policies that address the climate crisis at the speed and scale required. After what we have all been through in 2020, it is clear that climate impacts are more severe than anticipated and are happening faster than we thought. We hope you can join us for this webinar.

Register HERE for webinar #1.

Webinar 2: Phasing Out Fossil Fuels: A Just Transition in the Oil & Gas Drilling and Refining Sectors

In this webinar, scheduled for a special 90-minutes on Tuesday, February 23rd from 10am to 11:30am, we will explore how to ensure a just transition in two key facets of the fossil energy industry – extraction and refining. How do we move away from fossil fuels while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities that are economically dependent on these activities? Speakers will discuss the current impacts of fossil fuel production on frontline communities and what needs to be done to address them, a plan for decommissioning California refineries, and the possibility of enacting a fracking ban. What does the clean –and just– energy future look like?

Ingrid Brostrom of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and Gustavo Aguirre, Jr. of the Central California Environmental Justice Network will cover the oil & gas extraction side. Ms Brostrom will address efforts at the state policy level to accelerate the phaseout with an emphasis on hazardous waste, oil and gas, and Just Transition. Mr. Aguirre Jr. will bring us to the oil fields in Kern County to convey the realities of frontline communities and the need for a transition to a safe and healthful environment, but not leaving the workers behind.

Greg Karras, Principal of Community Energy reSource and Steve Garey, a retired refinery worker, will cover the oil refining sector. Mr. Karras will summarize the key recommendations about how to implement policies to ensure a just transition for communities and workers in his 2020 report “Decommissioning Refineries: Climate and Health Paths in an Oil State.” Mr. Garey, who served as President of United Steelworkers local 12-591 from 2010 until his retirement in 2015 and who now serves on the executive committee of the Washington State Blue Green Alliance and on the steering committee of the Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy in Washington, will offer us a labor perspective.

Register HERE for webinar #2.

We hope you can join us for these first two webinars in the series, and please check back at The Climate Safe California Webinar Series to find out about more coming up!