For Immediate Release - Sept. 17, 2019
Contact: Julie Light, 510-992-4083, [email protected]
New Report Shows that California Seeks to Expand Oil and Gas Operations, Threatening Climate and Renewable Energy Goals
Group Calls on Gov. Newsom to Declare Climate Emergency and Take Bold Executive Action
Sacramento — In the lead up to the U.N. Climate Summit and Youth Climate Strikes, a new report from the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch identifies at least seven new fracked gas-fired power plants proposed for development in California. This proposed deepening of reliance on fossil fuels in the state directly opposes California’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. The new report, California Leads: How to Break Fossil Fuel Dependence in the Golden State, details the web of fossil fuel infrastructure - including 298 gas-fired power plants and 100,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines - currently engulfing the state, and the alarming proposed expansion of this network.
Existing fossil fuel operations mean that California is second only to Texas as an emitter of climate polluting greenhouse gasses. And the state has issued 2,383 new drilling permits since the beginning of the year.
Driven by energy deregulation, California has overbuilt gas power plants, even though energy use has declined over the last decade and the price of renewable energy is rapidly dropping. Most of this toxic infrastructure is located in the most vulnerable neighborhoods—in low-income communities of color near homes, schools and parks.
California also routinely allows oil companies to inject toxic wastewater into the ground, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Between 2017 and 2019 regulators granted as many as 39 aquifer exemptions allowing such injections. Some counties even allow oil companies to sell wastewater to farmers to irrigate crops.
While running for office, Governor Gavin Newsom promised to move California away from polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy. He also pledged to close down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility—the site of the worst gas blowout in U.S. history—and to “oppose fracking and other unsafe oil operations.” Since taking office, Gov. Newsom has yet to take action on those promises.
But California Leads: How to Break Fossil Fuel Dependence in the Golden State shows that the governor has the authority to order regulators to take many of the actions he promised on the campaign trail—authority that would be strengthened by declaring a climate emergency. Alexandra Nagy, the state director of Food & Water Action (Food & Water Watch’s political arm), says such an emergency is necessary to protect the health and safety of Californians.
“Declaring a climate emergency would allow Gov. Newsom to order regulators to take the steps that he promised on the campaign trail. Families living near dangerous oil and gas operations need decisive actions, not empty promises,” said Nagy.
Among the report's recommendations to Governor Newsom:
- Immediately stop issuing new fossil fuel permits and develop a plan to phase out fossil fuel production
- Ban fracking
- Permanently close the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility
- Develop a plan for fair and just transition to 100% clean. renewable energy by 2030
Nagy said that these are steps Newsom can take immediately. Families living on the front lines of oil and gas development say there is no time to waste.
“My family and my neighbors have suffered with headaches, nosebleeds and breathing problems—even cancer—for almost four years since the Aliso Canyon blowout,” said Food & Water Action volunteer and Porter Ranch resident Dierdre Bolona. “Our governor needs to come to our community, look us in the eye and order those gas storage fields closed. He needs to protect Californians from oil and gas operations and from climate change fueled wildfires, mudslides and drought.”
Local officials in communities near oil and gas operations are looking for Gov. Newsom to lead on reining in fossil fuels.
“As someone who represents a community that is directly is impacted by California’s oil addiction, I know how critical it is that Governor Newsom take bold action to move the Golden State off of fossil fuels” said Meghan Sahli-Wells, Mayor of Culver City and Co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, whose district includes the Inglewood Oil field, the largest urban oilfield in the country. “In order to protect our people and public health, Newsom should demonstrate California’s environmental leadership and unleash an unprecedented jobs boom for workers in the clean energy sector. As the report explains, the governor has the ability to halt permits for new wells, ban fracking, and institute a 2500 foot setback to protect communities. We’re looking to him to make these things happen.”
California nurses are also sounding the alarm on the health impacts of drilling.
"As public health professionals on the front lines, nurses understand the very real health impacts of fossil fuel production and climate change, noted Zenei Cortez, Co- President, California Nurses Association. “As the earth rapidly warms, disasters here in California and across the country are only going to get worse. That's why we're looking to Governor Newsom to show the world what climate leadership looks like by banning fracking, stopping all new fossil fuel projects, instituting safety buffers to protect communities, and rapidly moving California off fossil fuels.”
Russel Green of Progressive Democrats of America said it was time for Gov. Newsom to declare a Climate Emergency.
“We are living in the age of the climate emergency,” said Greene, Senior Strategic Advisor on Climate Policy for the organization. “We must deeply connect to that and focus on what that actually means – and what it requires of us. We can no longer allow ourselves the false comfort of pretending we have more time to gradually enact policy. With each day we linger, we cause more harm, more suffering. Governor Newsom holds office in this final window of opportunity. No one else is coming. He holds the power to release America and the world forward, towards truth. “
California Leads: How to Break Fossil Fuel Dependence in the Golden State is a comprehensive look at the state’s oil and gas economy, that pulls back the curtain on California’s green image. It details the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and makes common-sense recommendations to quickly move California into a clean, renewable energy future.
Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action mobilize regular people to build political power to move bold & uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.