EOPCA’s video statements to Governor Newsom telling him to keep his word to transition to 100% renewable energy — set the date to 2035 and stop CA from being one of America’s top crude oil producer

PRESS RELEASES

EOPCA’s video statements to Governor Newsom telling him to keep his word to transition to 100% renewable energy — set the date to 2035 and stop CA from being one of America’s top crude oil producer

EOPCA held a press conference with Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Council-member, as well as Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair. Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, Esq, EOPCA Steering Committee Member.San Luis Obispo Mayor and EOPCA Steering Committee Member Heidi Harmon and Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb, at 10 am on September 23.

We recognize that many of the press couldn’t attend our ZOOM conference as they were waiting for Governor Newsom’s announcement at 10:30. We recorded the event and welcome them to attend now, by viewing it on YouTube.

Here is the full press conference on YouTube: https://youtu.be/6X0QPC9vncM

The information in the press conference and all their statements are current, as we haven’t changed our stance on insisting Governor Newson take action now on specific areas to mitigate climate change.

A Mayor, a Mayor Pro Tem and former mayor (current Councilmember) and a Councilman, deserve the respect to be heard as they are taking actions in their respective communities to fight this climate emergency. Please take a look.

Elected Officials to Protect California believe it is imperative for the safety of state and nation to implement faster results than his executive order prescribed. Results that include phasing outfossil fuel production in the state immediately with deadlines.“The people that over 315 of us represent, are the same people Governor Newsom represents. They need him to act now — before the flames of climate change can’t be contained. This fire season, and the pandemic are clear results of humans disrupting the environment — it’s time our governor took real action. When is he going to see he’s fueling the fires that have caused this climate emergency?” asked Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Council Member, Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair. “I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, we’re standing up for our communities, for all Californians. With one stroke of the pen, issuing a state of emergency for the climate crisis, the governor could begin to phase out all fossil fuel production — to match the urgency of the climate crisis we are living in.”Under Newsom’s executive order, every new passenger car and truck sold in the state has to be electric by 2035. Still, the order does not prevent Californians from owning gas-powered cars, selling used cars with internal-combustion engines or buying them outside the state.

“We applaud Governor Newson for his leadership on electric vehicles. It is a needed step to move us into a prosperous clean energy economy. However, allowing permits to extract the dirtiest oil in the U.S. is fueling the fires of climate change,” said Elected Officials to Protect California President, former Marine veteran and State Legislator Alex Cornell du Houx. “We cannot protect our health, and prosperity without phasing out fossil fuel extraction. Let’s lead the world and sign executive actions that remove this blight on our health and California’s leadership.”

The governor said, “ We need to punch above our weight. We have the power.”

We’re saying show it.

The state approved drilling permits for more than 1,400 new oil and gas wells in the first half of 2020, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, and since April, 48 fracking permits were issued. Governor Newsom promised during the press conference to phase out fracking, but taking it to the legislature next year is not taking responsibility. This year the legislature debated the safety buffer – setback law – but watered down the issue turning it into a study and that ultimately didn’t pass.

EOPCA worries the governor is passing the buck and no action will be taken.

Paraphrasing the governor, he said, “We don’t need to drill, to extract things, for our vehicles.”

EOPCA understands his effort to lessen the demand for gas at the pumps, but that isn’t a responsible plan to phase out oil and gas drilling or stop the state from refining oil from outside sources. It’s a tactic that is not comprehensive enough.

Dirty tar sand crude oil is shipped into the state from Canada to be refined here. On the journey here there have been notable spills, and the refinery process has proven deadly to communities that live near the refineries.

California is still one of America’s largest crude oil producers, which is the dirtiest oilin the United States. ANRDC analysisof oil and gas development in California shows that approximately 5.4 million people of the state’s population live within a mile of one of more than 84,000 existing oil and gas wells — many suffer from lifelong illnesses like asthma and cancer because of their proximity. Over12,000 Californians die from this pollution annually.

“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe,” said Newsom in announcing the executive order. “You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air.”

While EOPCA agrees we think his remarks neglect people living next to refineries, oil and gas wells and fracking operations. Everyday, those people suffer from dirty air pollution while living under the threat of a spill. These refineries are largely located in communities of color furthering systemic racism and environmental injustice.

California is the nation’s top third refinery. Not all the oil refined in California comes from the state. Refineries that accept tar sands crude oil from Canada pollute. Refining tar sands poses serious health threats. These include increased levels of highly toxic fugitive emissions; heavy emissions of particulate, metals, and benzene; higher risk of refinery accidents; and the accumulation of petroleum coke (a coal-like, dusty byproduct of heavy oil refining linked to severe respiratory impacts).

According to the National Resource Defense Council, California’s 17 operating oil refineries currently process1.9 million barrels of tar sands crude oil per day. Many California refineries have the capacity to process much larger volumes of heavy tar sands crude. Based on analysis by the Borealis Centre, the amount of tar sands refined in California could grow by 650,000 bpd by 2040. If this occurs, communities like Richmond, Martinez, Rodeo, Benecia, Wilmington, and Long Beach will be forced to confront the harmful effects of increased tar sands refining. California has eight operating crude oil terminals that accept delivery via train and there have been leaks. In the coming years it is anticipated that Canada will send tankers and barges loaded with this tar sands crude to San Francisco Bay or the Los Angeles area.

“If you care about your kids and your grandkids, if you care about disadvantaged communities, if you care about seniors, if you care about rural communities, if you care about inner city communities that have been underserved by our fossil fuel economy, then you care about the core construct that we are advancing here in this executive order,” said Newsom.

EOPCA does care deeply and we believe the governor does as well. We understand the governor’s core construct but it’s not enough to mitigate the climate crisis. Our elected officials have instituted real solutions in their communities. We urge you to listen to the video to find out more.https://youtu.be/6X0QPC9vncM

Even though the governor publicly stated, “we’re in a climate emergency.” He has not answered our call to declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis which would give him broader powers to take immediate action. If he would like to use his executive powers to enact our demands, then he should.

EOPCA encourages you to watch our press conference and please use quotes from our elected officials in the video. https://youtu.be/6X0QPC9vncM They are working tirelessly to help mitigate the effects of climate change and protect their citizens.

Elected Officials to Protect California is a project of the Elected Officials to Protect America.

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.

####

September 24, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511

Newsom: Stop propping up the oil/gas industries, declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis

PRESS RELEASES

Newsom: Stop propping up the oil/gas industries, declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis

Few Californians were spared from the grueling heat wave that recently baked the state. Not only were they coping with life-threatening heat: they were forced to live with an energy regime that, when they most need support and stability, left them in the dark. 

With rolling blackouts that have rippled across the state, as many as 3.3 million Californian households were left without power as temperatures rocketed up past 100 degrees, reaching 130 in Death Valley. The political fallout was immense, with citizens demanding to know who’s to blame for this staggering systemic failure. Newsom said it himself in an August 17th press conference: he is “ultimately accountable” for the rolling blackouts. 

Califonian electricity companies still rely on fossil fuels. Natural gas makes up 47 percent of portfolios, compared to only 36 percent renewables. Still, Energy Secretary Brouilette is trying to pin the blame for recent crises on the adoption of renewable energy sources, claiming California must backtrack away from innovative solar and wind. The scientific evidence says that’s just not true. In fact, climate change driven by fossil fuel energy sources is exactly what was behind the increased demand that crippled the grid. 

To move California forward and to protect her citizens, Elected Officials to Protect California (EOCPA) insists that Governor Gavin Newsom use his executive power to turn the situation around and seize this opportunity to fully transition to using 100 percent clean, renewable energy and start the process to phase out all fossil fuels production now. 

Elected Officials to Protect California have this message for Governor Newsom:

Dear Governor Newsom,

As elected officials, it is our responsibility to respond to the scale of the crisis this fire season has shown the world. Thus, on behalf of 310+ elected officials,from 49 counties we urge you to:

  • Declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis in California.
  • Phase out fossil fuel production, start by ending new permits for any fossil fuel projects.
  • Enact evidence based 2,500 foot safety buffer zones around all oil and gas wells.
  • Invest in creating clean energy jobs in the renewable energy sector to transition the state with resiliency, protecting our communities.

Even without the triple digit heat. California is still facing down an apocalyptic confluence of crises as COVID-19 continues to rage, wildfires burn, driving air quality to astonishingly bad levels and the fear of rolling blackouts is ever present. Recent studies have shown that exposure to air pollutants increases risk of dying from COVID-19.

We urge you to use the powers a state of emergency affords you under the law to ensure the path towards a future where California is truly leading the battle against climate change. More than 110 local governments in California have passed 160 local policies to protect their communities from fossil fuels. It’s time the state addressed the climate emergency.

“We’re in a pandemic, we just had a week of three digit temperatures and apocalyptic fires. I’m thankful our governor is doing a heroic job in both areas. But while he’s had the foresight to make an emergency declaration for these fires and the pandemic, it’s high time he did the same for the climate crisis. He should use those powers to keep our lights on in the future, by investing now in more clean renewable energy sources to power our grid,”  asked San Obispo Mayor and Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA) Steering Committee Member Heidi Harmon. Governor, declare a state of emergency for the climate crisis now.”

Newsom canceled his marquee speech Democratic National Convention (DNC) because of the wildfires burning across California. He did make a brief appearance in a three-minute cell phone video, recorded in a forest near Watsonville where he visited an evacuation center. In it, he encouraged Americans to take up the fight against climate change.

“Climate change is real. If you are in denial about climate change, come to California. This is an extraordinary moment in our history. Mother Nature has now joined this conversation around climate change. And so, we, too, need to advance that conversation anew,” said Newsom.

That conversation has to address the increased health risks caused by climate change. People exposed to wildfire smoke have an increased vulnerability to Covid-19. Particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter is known as PM 2.5. Long-term exposure to air with even moderate concentrations of PM 2.5 can stress the heart, increase the buildup of plaques inside arteries, hinder liver function and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Short-term exposures can prompt an inflammatory response thereby hindering the body’s ability to fight infection, leading to increased hospitalizations for asthma and pneumonia during fire season and, according to research published this summer by the University of Montana and the U.S. Forest Service, more severe flu seasons afterwards.

PM 2.5 in smoke can have effects not only in the communities closest to a fire, but for people living in areas where the smoke travels to.

This isn’t the first time EOPCA has urged Governor Newsom to take logical measures to ensure the health and well being of Californians. When constituents and fellow elected officials have demanded immediate action on urgent, life-or-death matters like ensuring adequate setbacks from drilling rigs to protect Californians’ health, Newsom has claimed he doesn’t possess the power to act. But he does: he can act by declaring a state of emergency for the climate crisis.

Although he ran on a platform of banning fracking, Governor Newsom has granted 48 new permits under the political cover of the twin crises of the pandemic and racial justice reckonings. In the past, the California Legislature and Governor Newsom have claimed that it is the other branch’s prerogative to take action against fracking or setbacks. Californians are tired of the back-and-forth, blame, and promises that fail to materialize. Elected Officials to Protect California has been advocating for years to see the Governor take the lead.

 “The governor invited people in his DNC video to come to Californina if they don’t think climate change is true. This fire season, and the pandemic are clear results of humans disrupting the environment — it’s time he took real action. Why isn’t he doing more to try and mitigate the factors that are creating the climate crisis? He has the power,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Councilmember, Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair . “I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, where more than 310 of us signed a letter to him to take action to halt permitting, put safety zones around existing wells and to phase out fossil fuel production once and for all. He could just declare a state of emergency, and make it so.”

It is now clear that California’s overreliance on out-of-state energy imports contributes to major power outages. Renewables not only alleviate crises —  they can provide unprecedented opportunities for growth. According to Forbes, with a transition to 100 percent clean energy, energy investors will see boosted value and new opportunities to innovate. Financially and morally, bold steps are imperative now.

 “I understand we are in a state of emergency with the pandemic and the fires — but when is Governor Newsom going to see he’s fueling the fires that cause the climate emergency?” asked San Obispo Mayor and EOPCA Steering Committee Member Heidi Harmon. “One stroke of the pen issuing a state of emergency for the climate crisis and he could begin to phase out all fossil fuel production, and let California lead the fight to combat climate change. Economically it’s in our best interest too.”

Governor Newsom’s wake-up call is here. This time, it just may be loud enough that despite the powerful interests of big oil, the administration might take necessary action. The governor must embolden California’s transition away from fossil fuels to match the urgency of the climate crisis.

The mission of Elected Officials to Protect America: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission. Elected Officials to Protect California is a branch of Elected Officials to Protect America.

September 2, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511

300+ Elected Officials to Protect California urge Gov. Newsom to lead on health issue and put safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells now

PRESS RELEASES

300+ Elected Officials to Protect California urge Gov. Newsom to lead on health issue and put safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells now​

Without set-back safety zones thousands become sick - with Covid-19 there's an increased risk for essential farmworkers

Some are stunned when they realize California is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the United States, for the state has a reputation of being a leader fighting climate change. Many Californians pride themselves on their state’s leadership on issues of public health and the environment. A staggering new NRDC analysis of oil and gas development in California shows that approximately 5.4 million people of the state’s population live within a mile of one, or more, of more than 84,000 existing oil and gas wells.

More than a third, 1.8 million, people also live in areas most burdened by environmental pollution as identified by California EPA’s tool. These communities, highly vulnerable to additional pollution from oil and gas development, are primarily 69 percent Latinos/Hispanics, 10 percent African Americans and 11 percent Asian Americans. In total, people of color make up nearly 92 percent of the 1.8 million people living within a mile of oil and gas development and in communities already heavily burdened by pollution.

On top of that California requires no health and setbacks safety zones between homes, schools, childcare centers, hospitals and other facilities and oil and gas wells. None. Other oil producing states do. Even the largest producer, Texas, does.

“There are one million people residing within a five square mile radius of the Inglewood Oil Field, which sits atop the Newport Inglewood fault line. Disaster could strike at any time. Its infrastructure is nearly 100 years old. Within the past few years, there have been several leaks and spills. Then there are the air contaminants that are responsible for countless respiratory conditions. We have to protect our people, not the fossil fuel industry,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Councilmember. “I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, where more than 310 of us signed a letter asking the governor to take action to halt permitting, and phase out fossil fuel production once and for all.”

Nearly 8,500 active California oil and gas wells are located within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals,disproportionately impacting people of color and economically disadvantaged communities. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, between 2011 and 2018, of the more than 21,000 new oil and gas wells permitted by the state, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, and 67 percent are located in communities of color.

The science is clear. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, exposure to toxic air contaminants and other pollution caused by oil and gas wells is a significant threat to public health.

A 2019 review commissioned by the city of Los Angeles states that the majority of relevant peer-reviewed studies have found that close proximity to oil and gas production is associated with exposure to high concentrations of dangerous air pollutants. “The development of oil and gas immediately adjacent to places where people live, work and play poses hazards and risks to public health . . . some minimum distance from sensitive receptors should be considered,” wrote the study’s authors, Seth B.C. Shonkoff and Lee Ann L. Hill with Oakland-based nonprofit PSE Healthy Energy.

“In our letter to Governor Newsom we also asked him to start protecting people now with an instantaneous 2,500 foot setback, or safe zone, from oil and wells dangerously close to schools, homes, and businesses,” added Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells, Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair. “This recklessness with people’s lives has to end. We need the Governor to step forward and lead on this issue. We have to value people’s lives, not corporation profits. AB 345 would have had a chance to pass if he’d come out to publicly support it.”

Californian Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi’s bill, AB 345, would have given California’s Natural Resources Agency until July of 2022 to adopt public health and safety regulations covering nearby oil and gas extraction areas. “My AB 345, a top priority environmental justice bill, passed the Assembly,” tweeted Assemblyman Muratsuchi when the bill’s 42-30 victory vote happened on January 27, 2020. “This bill will establish oil drilling buffer zones to protect children and families living near oil extraction sites.”

But the State Senate was lobbied incessantly by the oil and gas industry. The Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, strongly opposed AB 345.

As amended the proposed legislation would require the establishment of an environmental justice program at the California Natural Resources Agency, and requires the Geologic Energy Management Division of the Department of Conservation to adopt regulations by July 1, 2022, to “protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities.” Those regulations will include safety requirements and the establishment of a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors, as provided, based on health, scientific, and other data. Prior to adopting the regulations, the department has to consult with environmental, environmental justice, public health advocates, public health authorities, and other experts, as specified. The bill states the Department shall “consider a setback distance of 2,500 feet from schools, playgrounds, and public facilities where children are present.” The bill was watered down from “mandatory” to “considered.”

“My constituents are the ones who breathe the air and drink the water. Many work hard in the fields unaware of the toxins they’re breathing in. I was a farm worker when I first came to America. I suffered from headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds. A friend had a miscarriage. Our lives matter,” said Felipe Perez, Fresno City Councilmember and Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California. “We need the governor to lead. He has the power to help bills pass. In the time of COVID-19 my people are worried about their increased risk of infection simply because their zip code has put them at greater risk. This is a health emergency. These are essential workers. Newsom needs to take action. Why hasn’t he?”

Oil production sites emit hydrogen sulfide and known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors such as benzene and formaldehyde.

“Even if AB 345 doesn’t pass. Governor Newsom has the power of the executive order. I know there would be legal action against any such order, but leading means standing up for the people you represent, all the people, not corporations,” concluded Felipe Perez, Fresno City Councilmember and Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California.

According to a recent poll 79 percent of Californians support the creation of a health and safety buffer zone between communities and oil extraction.

“There currently is no binding commitment from the Newsom Administration to create any kind of health and safety buffer zone. Protecting the well-being of low-income, Black, and brown community members with a legislatively-mandated setback is the kind of emergency action that California needs to counter the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California. and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.

The Senate hearing was heated. Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg verbally attacked Valenzuela about the bill. He accused Valenzuela of misleading community groups, and of failing to “do the homework” or “read the bill.”

“I was there to testify as a primary support witness. As a resident of Oildale, CA, I was sent to the hospital too many times. By insulting my intelligence, my intentions, and my integrity he also insulted the broad coalition of nonprofit advocacy and community groups who have worked tirelessly to pass AB 345 into law,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California. and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.

The United Domestic Workers along with more than 270 environmental justice, public health, education, political, and other labor organizations signed on as supporters of AB 345.

“Senator Hertzberg addressed me with language that is all too reminiscent of the disregard and devaluing of lives of people of color that perpetuates environmental injustices,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California. and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.“The Majority Leader doesn’t seem to think that there is a problem, despite ample scientific evidence and community testimony to the contrary. So I’ve invited him to join me on a tour of oil fields in Kern County where I grew up so he can see what is happening for himself – at his earliest convenience.”

In the end, Senator Hertzberg, Senator Hueso, Senator Caballero joined Republicans to oppose the bill. Senator Henry Stern, Senator Monning, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and Senator Allen voted in support of AB 345. Senator Stern, committee chair, said the bill should be given urgent priority because it would help protect the health and safety of essential workers who provide food for the nation. Senator Jackson pointed to the important role the Legislature should play in helping guide Administration activities like the proposed rulemaking.

Senate Majority Leader Hertzberg has yet to publicly apologize.

Many elected officials had high hopes that Newsom wouldn’t be two faced as his predecessor Jerry Brown was, but now they question his intentions.

Newsom’s administration has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since the moratorium ended in April. Kern County received the bulk and more could be issued at any time. Being the center of California’s oil industry, Kern County already has some of the poorest air quality in the nation. It also has large communities of color, many of whom work in the fields. Kern County produces over 80 percent of the total national carrot crop. Potatoes, lettuce, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and watermelons are also grown here with invisible toxins covering the fields, carried on the winds.

The number of oil permits the Newsom administration has issued since he took office in January 2019 now totals 7,474 according to a report by FracTracker. 1,400 new oil and gas well permits issued so far this year.

“Now is the moment to propel our state forward and ensure the future our children deserve. Fracking has no future and a horrific past generating serious health problems, especially for minority communities,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, Elected Officials to Protect California Steering Committee Member. “I believe Governor Newson does want to protect the health and wellbeing of all Californians. I know we are in an emergency and COVID-19 is his priority. However, climate change is an emergency too and anything that contributes to it should stop. Now more than ever, we need to protect the health and safety of all our people — especially our essential farm workers. Issuing a decree for a 2,500-foot setback for all oil and gas wells is something he should and could do immediately. It’s time we found out where our governor really stands.”

Nationally, over 410 elected officials have signed the Elected Officials to Protect America’s National Climate Justice Sign-on Letter demanding a just transition. Since the Brown Administration, EOPCA has pushed for transparency, accountability, and an energy regime which protects public health

Elected Officials to Protect California is a program of Elected Officials to Protect America.

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.

####

August 12, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511

300+ Elected Officials to Protect California urge Gov. Newsom to lead on health issues and put safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells now.

300+ Elected Officials to Protect California urge Gov. Newsom to lead on health issue and put safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells now​

300+ Elected Officials to Protect California urge Gov. Newsom to lead on health issue and put safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells now

Without set-back safety zones thousands become sick – with Covid-19 there’s an increased risk for essential farmworkers

Some are stunned when they realize California is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the United States, for the state has a reputation of being a leader fighting climate change. Many Californians pride themselves on their state’s leadership on issues of public health and the environment. A staggering new NRDC analysis of oil and gas development in California shows that approximately 5.4 million people of the state’s population live within a mile of one, or more, of more than 84,000 existing oil and gas wells.

More than a third, 1.8 million, people also live in areas most burdened by environmental pollution as identified by California EPA’s tool. These communities, highly vulnerable to additional pollution from oil and gas development, are primarily 69 percent Latinos/Hispanics, 10 percent African Americans and 11 percent Asian Americans. In total, people of color make up nearly 92 percent of the 1.8 million people living within a mile of oil and gas development and in communities already heavily burdened by pollution.

On top of that California requires no health and setbacks safety zones between homes, schools, childcare centers, hospitals and other facilities and oil and gas wells. None. Other oil producing states do. Even the largest producer, Texas, does.

“There are one million people residing within a five square mile radius of the Inglewood Oil Field, which sits atop the Newport Inglewood fault line. Disaster could strike at any time. Its infrastructure is nearly 100 years old. Within the past few years, there have been several leaks and spills. Then there are the air contaminants that are responsible for countless respiratory conditions. We have to protect our people, not the fossil fuel industry,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells former Culver City Mayor, and current Councilmember. “I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, where more than 310 of us signed a letter asking the governor to take action to halt permitting, and phase out fossil fuel production once and for all.”

Nearly 8,500 active California oil and gas wells are located within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals,disproportionately impacting people of color and economically disadvantaged communities. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, between 2011 and 2018, of the more than 21,000 new oil and gas wells permitted by the state, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, and 67 percent are located in communities of color.

The science is clear. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, exposure to toxic air contaminants and other pollution caused by oil and gas wells is a significant threat to public health.

A 2019 review commissioned by the city of Los Angeles states that the majority of relevant peer-reviewed studies have found that close proximity to oil and gas production is associated with exposure to high concentrations of dangerous air pollutants. “The development of oil and gas immediately adjacent to places where people live, work and play poses hazards and risks to public health . . . some minimum distance from sensitive receptors should be considered,” wrote the study’s authors, Seth B.C. Shonkoff and Lee Ann L. Hill with Oakland-based nonprofit PSE Healthy Energy.

“In our letter to Governor Newsom we also asked him to start protecting people now with an instantaneous 2,500 foot setback, or safe zone, from oil and wells dangerously close to schools, homes, and businesses,” added Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells, Elected Officials to Protect California Co-Chair. “This recklessness with people’s lives has to end. We need the Governor to step forward and lead on this issue. We have to value people’s lives, not corporation profits. AB 345 would have had a chance to pass if he’d come out to publicly support it.”

Californian Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi’s bill, AB 345, would have given California’s Natural Resources Agency until July of 2022 to adopt public health and safety regulations covering nearby oil and gas extraction areas. “My AB 345, a top priority environmental justice bill, passed the Assembly,” tweeted Assemblyman Muratsuchi when the bill’s 42-30 victory vote happened on January 27, 2020. “This bill will establish oil drilling buffer zones to protect children and families living near oil extraction sites.”

But the State Senate was lobbied incessantly by the oil and gas industry. The Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, strongly opposed AB 345.

As amended the proposed legislation would require the establishment of an environmental justice program at the California Natural Resources Agency, and requires the Geologic Energy Management Division of the Department of Conservation to adopt regulations by July 1, 2022, to “protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities.” Those regulations will include safety requirements and the establishment of a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors, as provided, based on health, scientific, and other data. Prior to adopting the regulations, the department has to consult with environmental, environmental justice, public health advocates, public health authorities, and other experts, as specified. The bill states the Department shall “consider a setback distance of 2,500 feet from schools, playgrounds, and public facilities where children are present.” The bill was watered down from “mandatory” to “considered.”

“My constituents are the ones who breathe the air and drink the water. Many work hard in the fields unaware of the toxins they’re breathing in. I was a farm worker when I first came to America. I suffered from headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds. A friend had a miscarriage. Our lives matter,” said Felipe Perez, Fresno City Councilmember and Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California. “We need the governor to lead. He has the power to help bills pass. In the time of COVID-19 my people are worried about their increased risk of infection simply because their zip code has put them at greater risk. This is a health emergency. These are essential workers. Newsom needs to take action. Why hasn’t he?”

Oil production sites emit hydrogen sulfide and known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors such as benzene and formaldehyde.

“Even if AB 345 doesn’t pass. Governor Newsom has the power of the executive order. I know there would be legal action against any such order, but leading means standing up for the people you represent, all the people, not corporations,” concluded Felipe Perez, Fresno City Councilmember and Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California.

According to a recent poll 79 percent of Californians support the creation of a health and safety buffer zone between communities and oil extraction.

“There currently is no binding commitment from the Newsom Administration to create any kind of health and safety buffer zone. Protecting the well-being of low-income, Black, and brown community members with a legislatively-mandated setback is the kind of emergency action that California needs to counter the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California.and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.

The Senate hearing was heated. Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg verbally attacked Valenzuela about the bill. He accused Valenzuela of misleading community groups, and of failing to “do the homework” or “read the bill.”

“I was there to testify as a primary support witness. As a resident of Oildale, CA, I was sent to the hospital too many times. By insulting my intelligence, my intentions, and my integrity he also insulted the broad coalition of nonprofit advocacy and community groups who have worked tirelessly to pass AB 345 into law,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California.and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.

The United Domestic Workers along with more than 270 environmental justice, public health, education, political, and other labor organizations signed on as supporters of AB 345.

“Senator Hertzberg addressed me with language that is all too reminiscent of the disregard and devaluing of lives of people of color that perpetuates environmental injustices,” said Councilmember Elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect California.and CEJA Action Political and Policy Director.“The Majority Leader doesn’t seem to think that there is a problem, despite ample scientific evidence and community testimony to the contrary. So I’ve invited him to join me on a tour of oil fields in Kern County where I grew up so he can see what is happening for himself – at his earliest convenience.”

In the end, Senator Hertzberg, Senator Hueso, Senator Caballero joined Republicans to oppose the bill. Senator Henry Stern, Senator Monning, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and Senator Allen voted in support of AB 345. Senator Stern, committee chair, said the bill should be given urgent priority because it would help protect the health and safety of essential workers who provide food for the nation. Senator Jackson pointed to the important role the Legislature should play in helping guide Administration activities like the proposed rulemaking.

Senate Majority Leader Hertzberg has yet to publicly apologize.

Many elected officials had high hopes that Newsom wouldn’t be two faced as his predecessor Jerry Brown was, but now they question his intentions.

Newsom’s administration has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since the moratorium ended in April. Kern County received the bulk and more could be issued at any time. Being the center of California’s oil industry, Kern County already has some of the poorest air quality in the nation. It also has large communities of color, many of whom work in the fields. Kern County produces over 80 percent of the total national carrot crop. Potatoes, lettuce, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and watermelons are also grown here with invisible toxins covering the fields, carried on the winds.

The number of oil permits the Newsom administration has issued since he took office in January 2019 now totals 7,474 according to a report by FracTracker. 1,400 new oil and gas well permits issued so far this year.

“Now is the moment to propel our state forward and ensure the future our children deserve. Fracking has no future and a horrific past generating serious health problems, especially for minority communities,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, Elected Officials to Protect California Steering Committee Member. “I believe Governor Newson does want to protect the health and wellbeing of all Californians. I know we are in an emergency and COVID-19 is his priority. However, climate change is an emergency too and anything that contributes to it should stop. Now more than ever, we need to protect the health and safety of all our people — especially our essential farm workers. Issuing a decree for a 2,500-foot setback for all oil and gas wells is something he should and could do immediately. It’s time we found out where our governor really stands.”

Nationally, over 410 elected officials have signed the Elected Officials to Protect America’s National Climate Justice Sign-on Letter demanding a just transition. Since the Brown Administration, EOPCA has pushed for transparency, accountability, and an energy regime which protects public health

Elected Officials to Protect California is a program of Elected Officials to Protect America.

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.

August 12, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511

Elected Officials to Protect America asks Governor Newsom to use executive order and establish safety setbacks from oil & gas wells

PRESS RELEASES

Elected Officials to Protect America asks Governor Newsom to use executive order and establish safety setbacks from oil & gas wells

Across America people who live near oil and gas wells get sick, they deserve 2,500-foot safety/health setback zones

Parents naturally want the best health outcomes for their children. Yet too many families live next to oil and gas wells across the country. They feel helpless trying to protect their children from the hidden pollutants that are released into the air and soil night and day. They need help.

The production of fossil fuels has affected health outcomes of citizens across the country for decades, causing cancer in children and adults, asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and premature and/or low birth weights. Scientific knowledge, from more than two dozen peer-reviewed studies that were published over the last 20 years, all conclude that living near oil and gas wells risks potentially serious health consequences. Petroleum-related air toxins like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and xylene are the culprits. 

Approximately 17.6 million people live within one mile of an oil or gas well nationally. Out of that around 12 million reside within a half-mile, which intensifies the negative health impacts. 

It is imperative that states begin to require safety setback zones between where people live and fossil fuel wells.

In accordance with scientific evidence, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) actively promotes a 2,500-foot setback zone between homes, schools, hospitals, and other common gathering places and oil and gas wells to make sure this health safeguard becomes law. Over 315 EOPA/California elected officials signed a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom urging action on these setbacks, and other measures.

“There currently is no binding commitment from the Newsom Administration to create any kind of health and safety buffer zone. Thescience is clear — people are dying. We have to protect the health and well-being of communities living next to oil and gas wells. The governor needs to issue an executive order for setbacks of 2,500 feet to address this health emergency,” said Sacramento Councilmember-elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to America/California.  

According to the California Council on Science and Technology, exposure to toxic air contaminants and other pollution caused by oil and gas wells is a significant threat to public health. Even though the majority of studies indicate that  2,500-foot setback buffer zones around oil and gas wells is crucial for the health and wellbeing of residents, there are only a handful of local governments who have these regulations. No state in the nation does.                            

The danger of living near oil and gas facilities is universal, but the efforts to protect people from these oil and gas wells are not. While nearly every state approaches the issue differently based on their economy, political priorities, and residents, none of them are doing enough. The most progressive setback state law is in Colorado. 

“Safety rails ensure children and adults don’t have hazardous falls. Train crossing signals ensure cars stop, so we don’t get hit. We have laws to protect our citizens from visible dangers. It’s time we safeguard against hidden threats. Airborne toxins can’t be seen but can be measured, and have been. Creating a 2,500-foot setback zone from an oil or gas well will ensure the public isn’t exposed to as many deadly toxins. States need to pass legislation for this overdue safety measure,” said Steve Child, Pitkin County, Colorado County Commissioner, Army veteran Specialist 5. “I’m proud to see Colorado is leading the way.”

The state’s oil and gas conservation commission voted on a 2,000-foot setback from the center of an oil and gas well in September and the measure will be finalized in November. This comes following the Colorado Senate’s Bill 19-181 which changed the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) from an organization that advocated for oil and gas development to one who is responsible for regulating oil and gas development and production to protects public health, safety and welfare, the environment, and wildlife; an indication of the country’s growing concern about the environment and the climate crisis. 

“Oil and gas development have had damaging effects on the health and safety of Coloradans for far too long. I am heartened to know that since the passage of SB19-181, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) have expanded their rulemaking in favor of the health and safety of Coloradans as well as have given communities more control beyond minimum state requirements. I will continue to monitor the COGCC’s and AQCC’s efforts and stand ready to continue these efforts to protect our environment and public health,” said Colorado State Representative-elect Tracey Bernett.

While various local governments in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico require setbacks ranging from 467 feet to 1,500 feet, none are adequate to truly protect public health. 

Approximately 5.4 million people (14 percent of the state’s population) live within half a mile of an oil or gas well.  Nearly 8,500 active California oil and gas wells are located within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals, disproportionately impacting people of color and economically disadvantaged communities. Despite these substantial numbers, across the state the average setback distances are often only a few hundred feet, leaving hundreds of thousands still in the danger realm. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, between 2011 and 2018, of the more than 21,000 new oil and gas wells permitted by the state, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, and 67 percent are located in communities of color.

Kern River Oil Field, in the San Joaquin Valley, is one of the densest oil developments in the United States, with over 9,000 oil wells clustered in just several square miles. Sacramento Councilmember-elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect America/California was raised in the area.

“I grew up struggling to breathe because we were surrounded by oil fields. We cannot call California a leader on climate if we fail to protect communities of color and low income that have been ignored for too long. However, despite overwhelming testimonies from frontline communities members and ample scientific evidence, members of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee sided with oil industry lobbyists to stop a bill that would have created setbacks in California,” said Sacramento Councilmember-elect Katie Valenzuela, Steering Committee Member of Elected Officials to Protect America/California. “The logical next step is for the governor to issue an executive order. People’s lives are at stake, we can’t wait.”

Californians in urban centers are at greater risk than compared to communities in many other states. In the LA area, the amount of wells and the population density around them is higher, meaning more people breathe in more toxic air emissions.Add to this the fact that in California the lion share of oil production happens in low income communities and communities of color—communities that already disproportionately suffer from systemic racism and industrial pollution. An increased COVID-19 risk accompanies pollution from oil production.

The California Council on Science and Technology’s (CCST) 2015 studyfound that “the most significant exposures to toxic air contaminants” occur within a half-mile (2,640 feet) of well operations, and recommended consideration of setbacks. 

In 2019, the California Department of Conservation announced that it was commencing a broad regulatory reform effort—and zeroed in specifically on the issue of setbacks. A bill in the state assembly proposed 2,500 foot setbacks but ultimately failed to get out of committee last summer. Governor Newsom announced, in an executive order, that setbacks will continue to be researched, despite CCST’s previous definitive study. Newsom also gave no guarantees as to when they might become law. 

Some local elected officials in California have been fighting for setbacks. In late August, Ventura County adopted a 2,500-foot setback between oil and gas wells and homes and schools. More than 8,500 people in Ventura County live within 2,500 feet of an active oil or gas well, about 60 percent of them Latino, according to an analysis by the FracTracker Alliance.

“Ventura County Supervisors have taken important steps to protect public health by enacting one of the nation’s most strongest and comprehensive plans to protect our communities from the dangers of oil and gas pollution,” said Ventura County Supervisor-elect and current  Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, Esq, Elected Officials to Protect America/California Steering Committee Member. “If we can do it here, after long discussions and input from all concerned stakeholders, we believe that Governor Newsom can do this too for our state of California.  In light of the failure of the State legislature to enact setbacks earlier this year, I believe his best course of action is to issue an executive order. The Governor believes in science and his own agency recommends setbacks. Clearly, it’s time for action.”

Los Angeles County officials are currently considering a similar rule to Ventura’s that will be voted on later this year. These examples prove that when the state fails, local governments can step up to protect citizens.

While in many western states the practice of creating setbacks from oil and gas wells is primarily a local issue, across the country in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York the story is different. In this region a lot of fossil fuel production is dominated by the underlying Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas field in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

In Pennsylvania over 1.5 million people live within a half mile of a fossil fuel well. Statewide the mandatory minimum for the distance between a standard oil or gas well and a building or water well is 200 feet. For hydraulic fracturing wells the setback requirement is 500 feet. Some local governments are implementing more stringent requirements, such as South Fayette Township which has a minimum setback of 1,700 feet on residential areas and 2,500 feet from schools and hospitals. After a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report investigated the hydraulic fracturing industry and the state’s treatment towards these businesses, the grand jury made their recommendation to increase the setback for hydraulic fracking wells to 2,500 feet. Nothing has happened yet.

In neighboring New York state, fewer than 300,000 people live within a half mile of an oil or gas facility or well, thanks in large part to the state’s more stringent processes. In New York there is no standard setback for conventional oil and gas wells as there are variations based on the well type and each well needs to go under an environmental review before permits are given. Five years ago Governor Cuomo banned fracking through executive order. Elected Officials to Protect America/New York took an active part to make that happen. This year the state legislature codified it.

In West Virginia nearly a quarter of the population lives within half a mile of an oil or gas facility and half of the population lives within a mile of one. Currently there is a 200-foot setback requirement for conventional wells and 625-foot setback from the center of a fracking drill pad, which allows actual drill pads to be much closer than 625 feet. Efforts to change this at a state level from 2017 to 2019 resulted in failure. 

Nearly everywhere in the country setbacks from oil and gas wells are not substantial to protect public health. 

“For the majority who live next to an oil or gas well, moving isn’t an option. The anxiety of parents worrying about their child’s asthma, nosebleeds, and the possibility of cancer needs to be relieved. State governments can and should take action,” said Steve Child, Pitkin County, Colorado County Commissioner, Army veteran Specialist 5. “We, as elected officials, must protect the people we represent. If a gubernatorial executive order is not an option, I urge other state governments to enact setback laws, equal to, if not greater than, what we’ve done in Colorado. It’s the right thing to do.”

Elected Officials to Protect America/California is a project of EOPA.

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.

August 12, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect California Cell: 207.319.4511