September 1, 2022 By Ramona du Houx With the backdrop of a heatwave predicted to break records and power blackouts looming, lawmakers in Sacramento passed a flurry of climate crisis measures that will give needed protections to frontline communities, as well as mitigate the damage fossil fuels continue to do to the warming of our planet. During the last days […]
September 1, 2022
By Ramona du Houx
With the backdrop of a heatwave predicted to break records and power blackouts looming, lawmakers in Sacramento passed a flurry of climate crisis measures that will give needed protections to frontline communities, as well as mitigate the damage fossil fuels continue to do to the warming of our planet.
During the last days of the Assembly, Governor Newsom put forward legislation that follows many of the goals set forth in an EOPA CA letter, signed by 445 elected officials spanning 49 CA counties and representing over half of the people of California. Key bills passed in the EOPA CA letter passed in the late-night hours of August 31. One, Senate Bill 1137, will protect the public health of California’s frontline communities by establishing a minimum health and safety distance of 3,200-feet between a residence, school, childcare facility, playground, hospital, or nursing home and an oil and gas production well.
“History will remember Governor Newsom and the California Legislature for their bold leadership on climate and racial justice by stepping up to protect frontline communities from toxic oil and gas drilling. Years of inspiring organizing from frontline community leaders made this win possible,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “This is a huge victory for frontline communities who have been suffering from cancer, lung disease, asthma, and birth defects because of deadly fossil fuel drilling. More than 2.7 million Californians live within these toxic danger zones. California is once again leading the nation and the science-based 3,200-ft setback will serve as a model for other states.”
Specifically, the bill prohibits the California Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM) from approving the drilling, re-drilling, or significant alteration of any oil and gas well within this “health protection zone.”
“I am truly overjoyed and thankful to all the strong community advocates and my colleagues in the Legislature who have supported SB 1137, to help protect the health of our frontline communities,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). “This is a historic victory! It brings hope and strengthens our conviction as a State to reach our climate goals and fight for what is right for the people of California. Ensuring that our communities stay healthy, and protected from toxic emissions that cause cancer, respiratory illness, pre-term births and other health complications should always be a priority. Now, SB 1137 is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law, and I urge the Governor to stand with our frontline communities to end neighborhood drilling and create a healthier, more just, and livable future for all.”
Additionally, the law will require oil and gas facility operators in these protection zones to implement strict pollution controls, and to develop response plans to protect the health of over 2 million Californians currently living within 3,200 feet of an existing oil well.
“This is a historic moment in California history and I am beyond grateful to lead this effort with my colleague Senator Gonzalez,” said Senator Limón (D-Santa Barbara). “For too long our dependency on the oil industry has impacted the health and safety of California families, especially our children and communities who live near oil and gas wells. This policy will not only protect Californians, it will rectify long standing injustices for the communities who have borne the brunt of our dependency on fossil fuels.”
Science has shown that a 3,200 foot setback distance is the bare minimum needed to protect people from the worst health outcomes of living near constant oil and gas pollution. Cancers, asthma, lung disease, high-risk pregnancies, premature death, and an increased risk for a serious case of COVID-19 result from this exposure. A Harvard study showed that 34,000 Californians die prematurely due to breathing in fossil fuel pollutants—annually.
“I’m elated that finally after years of a long fight, members of frontline communities will finally have an opportunity to raise their families with a semblance of protections from the impacts of oil drilling in their backyards,” said Igor Tregub, Chair of the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and Former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member. “I thank the legislators who voted for these common-sense protections, particularly Senators Gonzalez and Limón, as well as Governor Newsom for championing this critical bill, which will not only bring our Golden State in line with the others who have had these common-sense setback provisions for decades, it will provide a new standard for them to follow.”
This environmental justice policy failed twice in recent years because of oil industry and labor opposition. The major difference this time was Governor Newsom’s influence as he put forth the measure.
“After many years of tours, regulatory negotiations, coalition building, and advocacy, the frontline community achieved something incredible. I am truly grateful for the amazing work, and the incredible legislative allies who helped push this across the finish line. I urge the Governor to sign this bill without delay so we can begin the long work of a just transition for these communities,” said Katie Valenzuela Sacramento Councilmember, EOPA CA Leadership Council Co-Chair.
City Councilmember Valenzuela grew up in Kern County where too many of these oil wells have led to premature deaths and children, like herself, being rushed to emergency rooms after waking up without being able to breath and with bloody noses.
New targets on the road to 100 percent renewable electricity were achieved with SB 1020 EOPA California asked lawmakers to sign an outreach letter on this Clean Energy, Jobs, and Affordability Act of 2022, and testified in Sacramento on it.
“Access to water in our Golden State is at risk of becoming more limited for everyday use like drinking, sanitation, irrigation, and agricultural needs. We must mitigate the climate crisis and accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy. Renewable energy investments will catalyze the creation of thousands of new, well-paying Californian jobs, grow our economy, and, literally save lives. SB 1020 will help us get there,” said Marisol Rubio, Vice President of the Dublin San Ramon Services District, EOPA CA Leadership Council.
Additionally: a requirement that the state achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, which stalled a year earlier passed along with other measures. Administration officials stressed that the governor’s legislative package would slash California’s oil consumption by more than 90 percent.
While the building trades’ collective lobby came out with an unsurprising hard no on the Governor’s whole package, several individual unions broke ranks and came out in favor of the package The breakaway unions have recognized the reality that climate action, handled right, can be an employment boon.
“With fires raging, heatwaves, and the drought the climate crisis has woken lawmakers up to the urgency of establishing laws that will combat the degradation caused by fossil fuels to our planet. Governor Newsom’s leadership helped others to stand with him. EOPA CA, environment and environmental justice groups have been urging these measures for years and are grateful for the people of California. They have finally been recognized for their lives having value and the oil production polluters have finally been put in check,” said Heidi Harmon, Former Mayor San Luis Obispo, Senior Public Affairs Director of the Romero Institute’s Let’s Green CA, EOPA California Leadership Council. “Yet there is so much more to do. We urge Governor Newsom to declare a Climate Emergency for California so he can finish the job.”
Gov. Newsom and lawmakers overcame fierce oil industry opposition to the successful legislation. It is no secret that the oil industry donates heavily to lawmakers, hence they took a deliberate stand for the health and well-being of the people of California and the planet, knowing their reelection coffers may not be filled.
More on SB 1020—the Clean Energy, Jobs, and Affordability Act of 2022 sets aggressive renewable and zero-carbon electricity requirements. In addition to clarifying, strengthening, and setting interim goals for the landmark SB 100, that requires zero carbon electricity by 2045, the bill will:
- Require state agencies to be 100 percent zero carbon by 2030
- Establish a Climate and Equity Trust Fund
- Create a new agency: the California Affordable Decarbonization Authority
- Allow the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC) to disclose confidential information to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO)
- Requires that a portion of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) scoping plan workshops be conducted in regions of the state that have the most significant exposure to air pollutants
- Eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply:
- 90 percent of all retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers by December 31, 2035
- 95 percent of all retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers by December 31, 2040