Sonoma County aerial

Petaluma City Council moves to ban new gas stations

by Kathryn Palmer, The Press Democrat 


Highlights

  • The City Council in Petaluma, located in Sonoma County, moved to ban new gas stations by enacting a two-year moratorium
  • Petaluma is the first city in the Nation to enact such a ban
  • The effort is a part of the City’s climate framework for net negative emissions by 2030
  • Current gas stations will have a more streamlined process to add electric vehicle charging stations as well as hydrogen fuel cell stations

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign includes measures for clean transportation systems. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/petaluma-city-council-moves-to-ban-new-gas-stations/

Choking on fumes: Diesel generators are booming with state funding

In a state that takes pride in claiming to be a world leader in technology and reducing carbon emissions, state and local government decision-makers in California have taken a giant step backward in funding diesel back-up generators to mitigate for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). 

In recent years, power shutoffs have cost California billions of dollars. Unfortunately, too much of the State’s response to date has focused funding on archaic and polluting fossil generators, which have lower upfront costs than clean energy solutions, but higher operating costs, as well as higher costs to public health from air pollution.

Governor Newson correctly laid the blame for power shutoffs on investor-owned utility PG&E for failing to maintain infrastructure. In initially announcing power shutoff mitigation efforts, Governor Newsom said, “For decades, they have placed greed before public safety. We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events. These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”   

The recently-completed 2019-20 Legislative Report on the use of $75 million in allocations made to support state and local efforts to mitigate power shutoff events explains how most of the money has been spent: on diesel generators. And except for about $100,000 that Alameda County used to purchase 96 1000-watt personal back-up battery power packs to loan to people reliant on electric-powered medical-support, very little was reported to have been spent by governments to “assist their most vulnerable residents.” 

All 58 counties received $26 million in total, of which $16 million went for fossil-fuel generators and the fuel tanks and controls to operate them. Only one county, Imperial, bought a solar-plus-battery system for $100,000 instead of generators.

As for the 39 cities that were allocated $10 million, $7.3 million went for fossil-fuel generators, fuel tanks and controls. Three cities bought solar-plus-batteries and no generators. They were American Canyon, $300,000; Orinda, 217,417, and Willits, $149,000 (with a population of 4,893). These cities should be commended for their leadership.

Out of $35 million allocated for state agencies, more than $20 million was spent on generators, only $562,500 on solar-plus-batteries.  

The growing use of diesel generators following recent climate change-exacerbated fires is extremely troubling. At a January California Energy Commission workshop on alternatives to diesel, the Climate Advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality District (BAAQMD) reported that highly energy-dependent businesses such as data centers have already added an additional 1000 Megawatts of new diesel generation just in the Bay Area with another 1500 Megawatts expected to come online, further adding to the roughly 80,000 MW statewide that existed in 2018 prior to the devastating 2019 and 2020 PSPS events.  

Diesel generators do not need permits if they are 50 horsepower or less and BAAQMD has no idea how many of those exist. But they have permitted 10,000 diesel generators in the Bay Area district and are finding they are used more than previously thought.  

California’s state and local leaders can and must do better.

That’s why last year The Climate Center launched an initiative for equitable clean and smart microgrids to build Community Energy Resilience. And we are partnering with lawmakers on legislation that supports equitable access to reliable and safe clean energy solutions.  

Learn about these bills and take action today.

As public dollars are invested to enhance resilience, state and local policymakers should focus on clean energy resilience (which can be cheaper over their lifespan than diesel generators) and should focus on prioritizing energy resilience for California’s most vulnerable communities.   

 

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.

 

Scott Wiener introduces bill to ban California fracking by 2027

by J.D. Morris, The San Francisco Chronicle


Highlights

  • State Senators Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, introduced a bill that would halt the issuance of permits for fracking and phase out the practice by 2027 
  • Sen. Wiener explains why this bill is so important:

“The world is being strangled right now with climate change…We see it with the wildfires. We see it with the storms in Texas. … California needs to lead in transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward a 100% clean and renewable economy.”

  • The bill also works to instate buffer zones from oil wells and homes, schools, and other community spaces
  • Resistance will definitely stem from the fossil fuel sector
  • Just transition of labor for fossil fuel workers is addressed in this legislation. The bill seeks to create employment opportunities through sealing and cleaning oil well sites 

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform. The Climate Center’s guiding principles in achieving our goals include striving to close the climate gap and ensuring a just transition for workers.


Read More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Scott-Wiener-introduces-bill-to-ban-California-15955300.php

To weather the worsening drought, California needs healthy soils

By Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center, and Torri EstradaCarbon Cycle Institute

This opinion piece was originally published on February 11, 2021 in CalMatters.

California is in the early stages of a severe multi-decadal drought, exacerbated by the climate crisis. As Dan Walters pointed out in his recent op ed, we must move quickly to prepare for water shortages and wildfires.

A potent strategy to improve the state’s water storage capacity involves an ancient technology so ubiquitous that it is often overlooked: soil. The urgency of California’s drought and wildfire risks require that we invest in soil health now. Demand action.

California is an agricultural powerhouse in large part due to its fertile soils. But historical agricultural practices have depleted their organic carbon content and diminished their water holding capacity. When soil’s carbon is restored through regenerative agriculture, it absorbs and retains more water, restores aquifers, draws down and stores more carbon from the atmosphere, sustains biodiversity, yields more and healthier crops, and increases farm profitability.

The ability of carbon-rich soils to store water and be more resilient to drought and extreme weather is well-documented. For every 1% increase in soil organic matter (a key indicator of soil health), an acre stores an estimated 20,000 gallons of additional water. In one experiment, covering the soil surface with a mulch of crop residue, a regenerative practice that protects soil and reduces evaporation, resulted in a 29% reduction in crop irrigation needs compared to uncovered soil. Another study found that covering soil increased its water retention by 74%.

Compost by Karen Preuss

Compost by Karen Preuss

In California, applying compost to soil has been shown to significantly increase water holding capacity and carbon sequestration on rangelands, and is a recommended practice by public resource management agencies. Combining compost application with cover crops boosts carbon sequestration on croplands.

Restoring soil health is a vital component of a climate agenda to ensure a livable climate for future generations. Nearly every climate modeling scenario that limits warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius includes carbon sequestration with soils. Globally, soils have lost about 135 billion tons of carbon. If this process were reversed – taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in soil – about 14 years of our global carbon footprint would be negated. Worldwide, soil carbon sequestration could remove 110 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 50 years, studies show.

Soil health makes good business sense. When soils’ natural functions are restored, they require less fertilizer, pesticide, and chemical inputs. As such inputs shrink, costs fall. At the same time, increased resilience of soil means that crop yields are less variable from year to year. All this is good for farmers’ bottom line.

Improving soil health can improve the resilience of rural farming communities, many of which dwell at the margins of economic viability. Case studies of two California almond farms, Okuye and Rogers, found that after adoption of soil health practices, their net income increased by $657 and $991 per acre, respectively, providing a vital boost to these farmers’ livelihoods.

Action is needed now to provide farmers, ranchers, and other land managers with the support they need. We call on California policymakers to:

  1. Rapidly and significantly increase funding for soil restoration by significantly increasing investments in current efforts such as the Healthy Soils Program and by developing new initiatives to meet the growing demand.
  2. Establish an ambitious and urgently needed target for nature-based sequestration on natural and working lands to 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or an amount of sequestration greater than emissions by 2030 annually in California.

Demand action from your policymakers today.

As the science and climate reality require, California must not only cut emissions further and faster but also start now drawing down emissions we have already dumped into the atmosphere using nature-based approaches, while also providing multiple additional benefits.

To reduce worsening droughts, wildfires, and other devastating climate impacts, it is time for state leaders to step up and take bold action. Improving the health of our soils is key to securing a climate-safe future for all.

Endorse Climate-Safe California today and support our work.

CPUC Approves $200M Investment in Microgrids for Vulnerable Communities

Reliable Clean Energy for Those Who Need it Most

On January 12, 2021 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a new decision in the CPUC microgrid proceeding. While the decision did very little to advance microgrid commercialization as required by SB 1339, it did include $200 million in utility ratepayer funding for a new incentive program to support microgrid development in vulnerable communities. These funds will not be enough to meet the magnitude of the need but the decision is an important policy step in the right direction.

Prioritization of vulnerable communities is a primary objective of The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience (CER) initiative. We are working with many partners to create a better electricity system for California that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe– prioritizing microgrid development in lower-income communities that suffer the most from air pollution and power outages.

The CPUC action followed through on recommendations from The Climate Center and Vote Solar as well as allied parties in the microgrid proceeding including Grid AlternativesSierra Club California and the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

During the discussion on the decision , CPUC President Batjer noted that “there remains work to do.”  We strongly support key points in the letter sent by Reclaim our Power to the CPUC highlighting the need to invest in disadvantaged communities, allow local communities to define critical facilities, develop a microgrid incentive structure to address historical inequities, focus on clean energy microgrids, and provide opportunities for community ownership.

The forward movement of this new decision, as well as the CPUC decision issued last June which recognized the pivotal role of local governments in energy resilience planning, was driven in part by comments filed by The Climate Center and filing partner Vote Solar in the CPUC proceeding over the past year.

As highlighted in our filings (e.g., January 4th and December 28th), as well as in The Climate Center’s CER Policy Summit last August, California’s clean energy programs have not sufficiently benefited lower-income customers who face higher cost burdens and are disproportionately impacted by power shutoffs.

Rather than leaving such decisions to a remote utility-centered policy-making process, local communities need to be empowered to plan their own energy future. Local empowerment is a core objective of The Climate Center’s flagship CER legislation, SB 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act, as introduced by Senator Bill Dodd in late December.

To learn more, please visit www.theclimatecenter.org/microgrids

Solar installers at cohousing in Cotati, California

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

Let’s be brave enough to see it and be it

Kudos to President Joe Biden for his courage in speaking truth and science to the world. His inaugural address made clear the urgent need to heal the nation and the planet:

“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now… A cry for survival comes from the planet itself.”

– President Joe Biden at his Inaugural Address, January 20, 2021

President Biden called for unity and truth at a time when 90 of the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results have also denied basic climate science. Biden also named climate change among several common enemies of the people:

“This is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis.”

Over the past few weeks, President Biden demonstrated a promising commitment to addressing the climate crisis by building a strong climate team. And on Inauguration Day, he rejoined the Paris Accord and moved to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.

He also signed an executive order beginning the process of overturning environmental policies under the Trump administration, including rescinding rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards, imposing a moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses.

President Biden’s cabinet picks have shown his commitment to supporting Indigenous rights, science, equity, justice, and a transition away from fossil fuels. In fact, he plans to spend $2 trillion over four years to rapidly move away from coal, oil and gas, and has set a goal of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation by 2035 (10 years earlier than current California law!). By midcentury, Mr. Biden has vowed that the entire United States economy will be carbon neutral.

In tandem with these federal efforts and funding, we must now insist that California lead on climate once again. It’s time for policymakers to accelerate climate action timelines and pass bold legislation to equitably phase out fossil fuels, scale up nature-based carbon sequestration on natural and working lands, and advance resilience to growing climate impacts. Bold California leadership is required to demonstrate to the country and the world how to achieve a vibrant and healthy future for all.

Please support our urgent work today by making a donation today here, join us for the upcoming Climate-Safe California webinar series (see more below), and, if you haven’t yet, endorse Climate-Safe California here.

As the nation’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, concluded in her exceptional reading at the inauguration, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Let’s be brave enough to do the work to secure the equitable, vibrant climate-safe future we desperately need!

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!

Emissions Gap Report 2020: Where we are & where we should be to avoid catastrophe


Highlights

  • The United Nations Environment Programme has released their Emissions Gap Report for 2020, highlighting where greenhouse gas predictions for 2030 are and how the world can avoid climate disaster
  • Currently, the world is headed for temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century and 2020 has likely to be the warmest year on record
  • Around 126 countries covering 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions had adopted, announced or were considering net-zero goals at the time this report was written, signifying that various countries are attempting to do their part to reduce emissions
  • Governments must go greener in the next stage of COVID-19 fiscal interventions to kick-start faster action on climate change

Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement policies for massive greenhouse gas emissions reductions and begin a drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere within ten years. With 9 of 15 global tipping points now active, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a safe climate well into the future. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read the Full Report: https://www.unep.org/interactive/emissions-gap-report/2020/