Elected Officials to Protect California

Dear Governor Brown,

We, the undersigned elected officials of California, are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change and pollution caused by the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels on the people we represent. We applaud your leadership in affirming our state’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and in supporting groundbreaking policies like the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act. Yet, these measures have failed to address fossil fuel production, the core culprit of climate change and a major source of life-threatening pollution.

On behalf of our communities, and the estimated 5.4 million Californians who live within a mile of one or more oil and gas wells,1 we ask you to take the next step in bold climate leadership: phase out fossil fuel production in California by ending the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, instituting a 2,500-foot public health setback for oil and gas facilities, and committing the state to 100% renewable energy.

The science is clear: these actions are imperative to address climate change and to protect public health. Production of oil and gas is a significant contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions,2 and is particularly polluting. Three-quarters of California’s oil production is as dirty as Canada’s tar sands crude for the climate.3

We can no longer ignore the true costs of oil and gas production. The disastrous impacts of fossil fuel use, including air pollution, droughts, fires, mudslides, storms, and sea level rise, already cost Californians more than 12,000 lives and one hundred billion dollars annually.4 Yet the oil and gas industry contributes less than 0.3 percent of California’s GDP and a small number of jobs.5, 6

Scientific evidence demonstrates that exposure to toxic air contaminants and other pollution caused by oil and gas wells is a significant threat to public health, and disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and people of color.1 According to the California Council on Science and Technology, the greatest health risks occur within one-half mile from active oil and gas development,7 yet nearly 8,500 active California oil and gas wells are within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals.8 Unconscionably, California has no statewide policy limiting the proximity of oil and gas wells to homes and vulnerable areas like schools, parks, and hospitals.

The Global Climate Action Summit you are convening in San Francisco this September is an opportunity for California to lead and set our nation and the world on a crucial and pivotal path forward. Recognizing that we are in a climate emergency, as you have rightly done, and given the grave public health and environmental justice consequences of fossil fuel production in California, we respectfully urge you to make a new statewide commitment and lay out a plan for California to achieve the following:

  • End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, including permits for new oil and gas wells, infrastructure for fossil fuels, and petrochemical projects in California.
  • Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health buffer zone around all occupied structures, public parks and farms to protect public health and vulnerable communities.
  • Commit the state to 100% clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and areas that are already suffering the most from the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction.

This is the bold climate leadership we urgently need to protect our public health, communities, economies, and our future. Phasing out fossil fuel production is paramount to address climate change, and will make California healthier and cleaner while reducing water use. It will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state as we increase investment in renewable energy, clean vehicles and buildings, energy efficiency, public transportation, and other innovative solutions.4

For a safe, healthy, and prosperous California, the time for transformative action is now.


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    1. Srebotnjak, Tanja and Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, “Drilling in California: Who’s at risk?,” Natural Resources Defense Council, October 2014, p. 4. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/california-fracking-risks-report.pdf
    2. California Air Resources Board, “California’s 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan,” November 2017, p. 7. https://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/scoping_plan_2017.pdf?_ ga=2.253665481.1304555220.1515158610-304097323.1509477659
    3. Oil Stain. How Dirty Crude Undercuts California’s Climate Progress. Center for Biological Diversity. November 2017. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/energy_and_global_warming/pdfs/Oil_Stain.pdf
    4. Jacobson, Mark Z. et al. “A roadmap for repowering California for all purposes with wind, water, and sunlight.” Energy (2014). https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CaliforniaWWS.pdf
    5. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Gross domestic product (GDP) by state (millions of current dollars),” January 24, 2018. https://www.bea.gov/iTable/index_regional.cfm
    6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and California Employment Development Department’s (EDD) Labor Market Information Division, “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages: Industry Information,” industry codes 211 (Oil and gas extraction) and 213 (Support activities for mining), accessed April 2018. https://data.edd.ca.gov/Industry-Information-/Quarterly-Census-of-Employment-and-Wages-QCEW-/fisq-v939
    7. California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), “An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California: An Examination of Hydraulic Fracturing and Acid Stimulations in the Oil and Gas Industry – Summary Report, “ July 2015, p. 63. https://ccst.us/publications/2015/2015SB4summary.pdf
    8. Oil Change International. The Sky’s Limit California: Why the Paris Climate Goals Demand that California Lead in a Managed Decline of Oil Extraction. May 2018. http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2018/05/Skys_Limit_California_Oil_Production_R2.pdf

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