Officials say customer-ownership of PG&E, public-private partnerships essential to combat climate change
HALF MOON BAY — About half a dozen mayors and council members from San Mateo County cities met in Half Moon Bay Wednesday to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to take bolder action on climate change, including placing a moratorium on any new fossil fuel projects.
Representatives from Pacifica, Millbrae, East Palo Alto, Burlingame, Atherton and Half Moon Bay also called on the governor to phase out all fossil fuel production within 2,500 feet of homes in this decade and commit the state to 100 percent renewable energy in all sectors as a way to stave off the effects of climate change.
“I used to say we lived in paradise until Paradise burned to the ground because of climate change,” said Half Moon Bay mayor Harvey Rarback. “In my city, we’re seeing more and more coastal erosion. We thank the governor for his actions to protect the climate, but Newsom should act boldly on these three points.”
Following Gov. Newsom’s recent moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and a partial moratorium on steam-injection oil drilling, San Mateo County elected officials also are urging the governor to enact a comprehensive climate emergency plan that would phase out the production and burning of oil and gas in California which they say is “driving the climate crisis and killing 12,000 Californians each year.”
Already over 80 cities in California have passed more than 115 local policies that include fossil-fuel phase-out plans, setbacks on oil and gas drilling, climate lawsuits, divestment from fossil fuel companies and institutional opposition to fossil fuel production expansion as a way to combat climate change.
Many of them already have signed a letter that calls for the customer ownership of Pacific Gas and Electric, and on Wednesday officials again expressed their commitment to changing the organizational structure of the state’s sole utility and to use its profit margin to pay for much-needed improvements on neglected electric infrastructure.
Mayors and council members boasted about their cities’ actions on climate change so far, including Millbrae Vice Mayor Ann Schneider, who said she’s organizing a massive tree-planting campaign and will urge the San Francisco International Airport to switch to biofuels as much of the particulate matter coming from the seventh busiest airport in the country falls on her city.
Burlingame council member and state senate hopeful Michael Brownrigg said about a third of his city’s revenue comes from companies based “just a few feet away” from the bay.
“That is an existential threat to my city,” Brownrigg said. “It is precisely because our cities are so close to the bay that we need bold action. The State of California has set a target of 2045 to be carbon-free in our energy stream. Here’s the problem: if the richest, greenest government in the world — namely, the State of California — cannot get fossil fuels out of our energy stream until 2045, then the rest of the country will not get there until 2075, and the developing world — where most of the new emissions will come from — won’t get there until the 2100s. That is game over. for our kids and grandkids.”
As for how the state would pay for such a massive investment in renewables and a phasing out of fossil fuels, officials on Wednesday said the money has to come from both public and private funds.
Cities won’t be able to do it alone.
“We’re looking at what should be our top ten actions and it can’t just be public-private agreements,” Schneider said. “Each one of us as individuals, as school districts, as a city, as businesses, we each have to do our part. In our plan it isn’t just going to be what Millbrae can do, but what everybody can do.”
Divesting from the fossil fuel industry as cities might be trickier though, Schneider added.
“Especially with pensions nowadays, it’s a trickier one,” Schneider said. “But the discussion of divestiture is happening. We’re going to need to balance that out. Certainly, we can’t be putting our money into places that are killing the planet.”
Brownrigg added that private industry is essential to moving toward renewables.
“If you look at the capital investment that’s going to be needed both in sources of clean energy and in storage, which is the other half of this, it has to come from the private sector in addition to government,” Brownrigg said. “We can’t fund all of that out of the state of California general fund and we don’t have to. This is an area that is rife for partnership.”