California oil production limits stall in Legislature, leaving the issue to Newsom

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Highlights

  • Assembley Bill 345, legislation that would have mandated setbacks of oil drilling sites from homes, schools, and other community dwellings, was voted down 5-4
    • The bill would have also required the Department of Conservation to create an environmental justice progam where residents near drilling sites could voice their concerns
  • Currently the state houses 1,175 active offshore wells and 60,643 active onshore wells
  • While more than 5.4 million Californians lived within one mile of a drilling site and exposure to the pollution is known to cause health effects, Governor Gavin Newsom allowed almost 50 new fracking permits since April
  • Residents of the Central Valley, particular Black and Brown residents, continue to experience the pollution and health effects of continued fracking and drilling at disporortionate rates
  • The state Department of Conservation has been holding online and in-person meetings with communities near oil drilling sites discussing proposed public health and safety protections, but these proposed regulations have not been released

Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Divestment from big oil and securing  100% clean energy in California’s frontline communities is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read More: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-13/setbacks-legislation-california-oil-gas-production-environmental-protections-newsom

Harris and Ocasio-Cortez team up on a Climate ‘Equity’ Bill

by Ilana Cohen, Inside Climate News


Highlights

  • California Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez unveiled an updated version of their Climate Equity Act that was initially released a year ago as Senator Harris was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination
  • The Climate Equity Act would:
    • Create an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability 
    • Require the government to consider the impact of any environmental legislation or regulation on low-income communities by using an equity score created by climate experts and community leaders to assess the equity impacts of new legislation
    • Redirect capital to marginalized communities of color by increasing the diversity of recipients of federal grants and loans in order to make these opportunities more accessible
  • Representative Ocasio-Cortez explains that diversity is needed while creating new policies:

For too long, policies that affect communities of color have been determined by a few white men in a room in Washington… I’m proud to partner with Senator Harris on a bill that will pave the way for a new, inclusionary way of doing things in D.C.”


Senator Kamala Harris is Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s pick for Vice President. Centering equitable climate legislation and policies for California’s frontline communities is one of The Climate Center’s guiding principles


Read More: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/05082020/kamala-harris-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-climate-equity-bill

How the fossil fuel industry drives climate change and police brutality

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Highlights

  • Public Accountability Initiative and LittleSis released a new report detailing how oil companies fund police foundations across the country
    • These foundations are non-profits that raise money to buy weapons, equipment, and surveillance technology for police departments
  • Some fossil fuel companies have also supported legislation that would criminalize protesting pipelines
  • Big banks with fossil fuel investments as well as some private utilities have also donated to police foundations 
  • Activists, including the authors of this report, are connecting the dots between policing and environmental justice:

“…divesting from fossil fuels and fighting to end environmental racism goes hand in hand with defunding the police in the fight for racial justice and reinvestment in Black and Brown communities.”


Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Divestment from big oil and securing  100% clean energy in California’s frontline communities is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read More: https://grist.org/justice/how-the-fossil-fuel-industry-drives-climate-change-and-police-brutality/

California greenlights ‘Orwellian’ solar-powered fracking scheme


Highlights

  • California Governor Gavin Newsom approved two rounds drilling permits for Chevron this summer, furthering criticism from environmental groups
    • Since lifting the moratorium on fracking, Governor Newsom has approved 36 new fracking permits in Lost Hills to Aera Energy, a company he has close ties with 
    • Chevron was given permission to frack 12 wells before July 4th
  • Chevron plans to use solar panels to power their drilling operations in the Lost Hills Oil Field located in Kern County
  • The new permits will exasperate health issues within the small town of Lost Hills in the area due to pollution 
  • The approval of these permits is an example of environmental racism, as the town is comprised of 97% Latinx individuals and almost 30% of residents have incomes below the poverty line
  • Juan Flores of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment questions the Governors campaign promises:

“[Newsom] kept talking about how we needed to stay away from corporations and him not wanting to receive money for his campaign from big corporations like Chevron, Aera and Shell. He said ‘I don’t want to serve my term as Governor paying back those favors.’ And now he’s completely acting the opposite.”

  • The amended version of AB 345 was voted down on Aug. 5 Senate hearing and all of those who voted against it received money from companies or labor unions who had opposed the bill

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030. This bold target requires accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use.


Read More: https://therealnews.com/columns/california-greenlights-orwellian-solar-powered-fracking-scheme

Committee For A Better Arvin / Comite para un Arvin mejor

Tired of wells that threaten residents’ health, a small California town takes on the oil industry


Highlights

  • In the Central Valley of California, exhaust from semi-trucks, oil and gas fumes, plus pesticides from the agricultural sector are trapped in the valley, creating mass pollution that creates severe health problems
    • Health effects include asthma, respiratory illnesses, preterm birth, low birth weight, and cancer 
  • Pollution caused by drilling sites disproportionately affect neighborhoods that are predominately occupied by Black, Indigenous, People of Color 
  • Though implementing setbacks or buffers that separate drilling sites from homes, schools, and hospitals effectively reduces health risks, California has no mandates or laws requiring these buffers
  • Oil industry giants such as the Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron have spent $9.9 million and $7.5 million on lobbying this legislative season
    • These same companies successfully advocated for streamlined approval of new oil projects with little environmental review
  • A community group in the Central Valley town of Arvin, named Committee for a Better Arvin, have taken on the oil industry in their community 
      • In 2014 a leaky pipeline had caused an air sampling from the inside of homes on a street in Arvin to have levels of toxic gas 13 times higher than deemed safe by the EPA 
      • With help from other smaller community groups plus big environmental groups, Committee for a Better Arvin sued for better regulations in their community
  • In Los Angeles County over 1.5 million people live within 2,500 feet of an operational oil well
  • AB 345 would create setbacks of 2,500ft, being the first mandate for buffers in the state
  • The bill would not stall oil production but would help frontline communities avoid toxic levels of pollution 

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030. This bold target requires accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use.


Read More: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02082020/california-big-oil-environmental-health

Let’s secure equitable access to resilient clean energy

The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit will address equitable approaches to clean energy resilience programs.  August 5, 2020, 9 AM – 12 PM.


As awareness of systemic poverty and racism grows, government policies and programs beyond police force budgets and protocols are also getting attention. The media is shining light on toxic oil and gas infrastructure – from freeways to oil refineries – that are often sited in lower-income communities, close to homes, schools, and hospitals and polluted air that leads to significantly lower life expectancy and higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases

In California, programs designed to promote clean energy are more likely to benefit the rich than the poor who need them most. With the approaching power shut-offs that California is expecting this fire season, this inequity will continue to grow. While all communities are disrupted and suffer from power outages, lower-income households are likely to suffer most. This is because they have fewer resources to rely on in the event of an emergency, and less ability to absorb financial losses from outages. While wealthier Californians may buy back-up batteries or generators, less affluent residents can’t afford them. These same residents often suffer higher rates of respiratory illness due to pollution and are especially vulnerable when fossil backup generators are widely used during a power shut-off. And food security is an especially acute problem for low-income households that rely on school meal programs that are not accessible during power shut-offs because of the lack of refrigeration. 

A number of studies have highlighted inequities created by clean energy incentive programs. Perhaps the most striking findings come from Eric Fournier at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, with a report showing how inequities in incentives for things like rooftop solar and electric vehicles place a larger burden of cost on the least affluent, and reward wealthier people. This is especially unfortunate given that lower-income communities are using less energy than wealthier communities and are less responsible for climate change.

While there’s a lot of work yet to be done, over the past decade Environmental Justice advocates have had remarkable successes in crafting new state policies and programs to provide more equity for lower-income communities. This trend and more will be discussed at The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit on August 5th. Panelists will outline how we can meet the challenges of enhancing clean energy resilience while avoiding exacerbating inequalities that these incentive programs often create.

The Summit will feature an opening keynote address by Carmen Ramirez, Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard, followed by a panel providing an overview of what the state is doing now for clean energy resilience featuring Janea Scott, Vice-Chair of the California Energy Commission; Genevieve Shiroma, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission; Eric Lamoureaux from the California Office of Emergency Services, and California Senator Henry Stern. 

A subsequent panel will provide a labor perspective, including Mark Kyle, former Chief of Staff of the California Federal of Labor, Jennifer Kropke, Director of Environmental and Workforce Engagement, IBEW, Local Union 11 & National Electrical Contractors Association Los Angeles County; and Vivian Price, researcher for the Labor Network for Sustainability and CSU Dominguez Hills Professor specializing in labor and climate change.

An Environmental Justice panel will be moderated by Janina Turner, a lead organizer in Sonoma County’s Sunrise Movement. Panelists include Mari Rose Taruc, movement organizer for environmental justice & climate solutions at Reclaim Our Power; Gabriela Orantes, a Just Recovery Fellow at the North Bay Organizing Project; and Nayamin Martinez, Executive Director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network.

The final panel, highlighting energy resilience programs of Community Choice agencies, will be moderated by Carolyn Glanton, Programs Manager at Sonoma Clean Power. Panelists include Sage Lang, Energy Program Coordinator/Analyst for Central Coast Community Energy; Stephanie Chen, Senior Policy Counsel at MCE; and JP Ross, Senior Director of Local Development, Electrification and Innovation for East Bay Community Energy. 

As California turns its attention to building energy resilience in the face of more power outages, policymakers must prioritize clean energy resilience in California’s lower-income communities. This will ensure that the Californians who are the least responsible for climate change are not suffering its worst consequences.

Register for the August 5th policy summit HERE.

New report on climate-driven mass migration of humanity

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica


Highlights

  • Due to the climate crisis, mass migrations of people will continue to grow as flooding, drought, food insecurity become more widespread
  • In Alta Verapaz, Guatemala is experiencing the worst effects of the climate crisis, as El Nino storms will decrease rainfall by 60%, making it nearly impossible to grow crops for sustenance and income
  • the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined
  • In the next 80 years, the world could see temperatures so hot that going outside for a few hours can be deadly
  • Extremely hot areas that currently cover less than 1% of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, displacing 1 of every 3 people alive outside the climate niche where humans have relied on for crop cultivation and livable temperatures
  • Climate refugees must be admitted into countries that are not experiencing the most severe effects of the climate crisis. Preparation and planning of this mass migration is key in order to avoid political instability and conflict
  • In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than 8 million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe, and North America
  • Using a model created by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, the most extreme climate scenario would result in over 30 million migrants trying to reach the US over the next 30 years
  • Reduction in emissions would result in close to 700,00 climate migrants from Central America and Mexico to the US from now to 2050. Without emissions reductions, the US could see close to one million migrants
  • The United Nations estimates that some 65% of farmable lands have already been degraded in the African Sahel due to rapid desertification
  • Coastal regions in the US, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Iraq, and Egypt are at risk of submerging underwater due to rising tides

Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement massive reductions of warming emissions and begin a drawdown of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere over the decade aheadFor 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://features.propublica.org/climate-migration/model-how-climate-refugees-move-across-continents/

Oil drilling near homes by haymarketrebel

AB 345 will fight CA oil industry’s environmental racism

by Jane Fonda and Don Martin, The Sacramento Bee


Highlights

  • Politicians that allow pollution in our state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, which are disproportionately communities of color, are signaling that this environmental racism is not a concern and that people of color are “disposable”
  • Over 215,000 people in Los Angeles live within 2,500 feet of an active oil and gas well
  • Exposure to gases and chemicals from the fossil fuel industry are causing massive health issues, such as asthma and cancer
  • A Stanford study found that pregnant women living near oil and gas wells in California face a high risk of preterm birth, with Black and Latinx women facing the highest risks
  • People exposed to large amounts of pollution are more likely to have severe and lethal effects of COVID-19
  • AB 345 will establish a state law that requires oil and gas drilling sites to be 2,500 feet away from homes, schools, and hospitals
  • However, the LA County Department of Regional Planning recently released plans for a 500-foot buffer zone from new drilling sites which is not an adequate distance 
  • Passing AB 345 will let Californians know that our elected representatives care about communities of color and are working toward ending environmental racism 

Take action to support AB 345. Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. 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.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article244232417.html

Congressional climate strategy includes microgrids and climate justice

Last week, Democrats on the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued a report, “Solving the Climate Crisis, “ which provides an emissions reduction policy framework which seeks to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s a link to a summary article from Vox about the report. 

One of the recommendations in the report is to “Invest in disproportionately exposed communities to cut pollution and advance environmental justice.” This matches Climate Center policy priorities related to climate justice as noted in a recent letter sent by The Climate Center and Partners to the Steyer Committee (here’s a link to a summary article from Microgrid Knowledge).  One of the principles of The Climate Center-backed Community Energy Resilience Act, SB 1314, was the prioritization of state support for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The new report also spotlights microgrid development as a key resilience strategy, particularly for critical infrastructure — similar to recommendations from The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program and associated media efforts.

Microgrid-related recommendations in the new congressional report include the following:

  • Establishing a new program at the Departments of Health and Human Services to support pre-disaster hospital and health facility resilience projects, including retrofits and maintenance to reduce flood and wildfire risk, harden facilities against extreme weather, and integrate redundant water and power supplies, including microgrids and community renewable energy grids;
  • Directing the Department of Energy to create a grant, technical assistance, and demonstration programs for microgrids, especially in isolated areas and vulnerable communities;
  • Providing technical assistance and funding through the US Department of Agriculture to deploy resilient renewable energy and microgrid systems;
  • Creating a new program within the Department of Transportation to assess and deploy resilient solutions for public transit electrification, including advanced microgrids.

To learn more community energy resilience policy, register here for The Climate Center’s August 5th Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit.

Fracking rig operates next to a walking and bike way for residents of Signal Hill drilling into the Los Angeles Oil Field. Photo by Sarah Craig.

The rise of leaky wells and taxpayer liabilities

A rapidly growing movement is underway in California to call out Governor Gavin Newsom for ramping up approval of fracking and drilling permits. This comes at a time when the effects of fossil fuel pollution on public health is of grave concern and many oil and gas companies may abandon leaky wells because of bankruptcy with falling demand for their products.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency approved 12 new permits for Chevron to conduct fracking in the Lost Hills Oil Field in Kern County. Newsom has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since ending his initial moratorium on the practice.

Newsom has also approved drilling permits for more than 1,400 new oil and gas wells so far this year. According to a California Council on Science and Technology report, it would cost more than $9.2 billion to properly plug California’s existing oil and gas wells, and operators have not set aside nearly enough money to pay for this legally required cleanup. Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution through proximity to these wells, making this a climate justice issue.

The federal government estimates that there are already more than three million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States. Two million of those are unplugged, releasing the methane equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 1.5 million cars. 

As oil and gas companies face bankruptcy, many fear that wells will be left leaking pollution, with cleanup costs left to taxpayers. At the same time, some of the top executives at these companies are granting themselves multi-million dollar bonuses just days before declaring bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, cities across the state see a way out of reliance on natural gas. The City of Berkeley banned new natural gas hookups in 2019, and now 30 California cities have policies that ban gas or at least encourage all-electric construction in some way. 

San Francisco officials recently said that they are introducing legislation that would be similar to Berkeley’s ban, and Pacific Gas & Electric has also said it would support the growing push for state rules that require new buildings to be all-electric.

Clearly California communities are moving away from natural gas. So, why is Newsom increasing extraction permits and with it, taxpayer liability for leaky wells?

Tell Governor Newsom to put public health first, not oil and gas interests