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Australia has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions among major economies. More than 2,000 koalas may have died in the fires and their bodies may never be found, an ecologist says. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, City of Alameda speaks at Alameda City Hall on Wednesday to urge Gov. Newsom to create a plan to phase out fossil fuel production statewide. Photograph: Supplied by Jimboomba Police
Australia has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions among major economies. More than 2,000 koalas may have died in the fires and their bodies may never be found, an ecologist says. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, City of Alameda was just one of 300+ officials, Concerned that Australia’s apocalyptic fires are a dire warning for California’s increasingly deadly fire season that is mere months away, the officials stood in solidarity with the people of Australia and called for emergency action. Photograph: Supplied by Jimboomba Police and Elected Officials to Protect California

300+ California Officials Urge Emergency Action 
in Solidarity with Australia
During Apocalyptic Fires

Jan 18, 2020

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39 Alameda County Elected Officials asked Gov. Newsom: Where's your climate plan on fossil fuels?

More than three dozen Alameda County elected officials today urged Governor Gavin Newsom to enact a comprehensive climate emergency plan to phase out the production and burning of oil and gas in California. Concerned that Australia’s apocalyptic fires are a dire warning for California’s increasingly deadly fire season that is mere months away, the officials stood in solidarity with the people of Australia and called for emergency action. 

The Chevron Richmond Refinery is a 2,900-acre (1,200 ha) petroleum refinery in Richmond, California, on San Francisco Bay. The refinery processes approximately 240,000 barrels (38,000 m3) of crude oil a day in the manufacture of petroleum products and other chemicals. Photo: Audiohifi - (CC BY-SA 4.0)

"California's and our nation's polluting oil and gas industries threaten the public's health, put at risk the safety of our communities, and are heating up our climate beyond safe levels," said Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb. "The climate crisis around the world and in our local communities demands action at all levels of government. If we are serious about dramatically reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, we must phase out the production and use of dirty fossil fuels in our state and across the country."

Governor Newsom’s November 2019 moratorium on new fracking wells and partial moratorium on steam-injection oil drilling is important, but only a first step. The officials emphasized that it is imperative to take emergency action to end new oil and gas drilling permits and enact 2,500 foot public health setbacks on drilling to protect our public health, economy, and stop grave environmental injustices. The governor’s promise to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy must be fast-tracked—now. 

The group of 39 elected officials in Alameda County joined with more than 300 local officials from across California in urging Governor Newsom to act to phase out fossil fuels in California. The group includes more than 90 officials in the Bay Area.

“We continue to see the devastating impacts of climate change in our state and around the world. We must urge that California’s that transition to clean energy is on the fast track,” said City of Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. “I encourage the state to make a strong commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ending the issuance of permits for new oil and gas wells, fossil fuel infrastructure and petrochemical projects and committing to 100% renewable energy. These actions are incredibly important for the health and sustainability of Alameda, our state, and our world.”

With the climate crisis polling as the top issue for California voters and with worsening fires and climate disasters across California, the elected officials highlighted how the state's fossil fuel production threatens the health and safety of our communities. They called on Governor Newsom to end new drilling permits and to enact a 2,500-foot setbacks on drilling to protect public health from the disastrous harms of drilling. 

Mayor Nick Pilch, City of Albany speaks at Alameda City Hall on Wednesday, calling on Governor Newsom to end new permits for oil and gas drilling and enact 2,500 ft setbacks on drilling. Photo credit: Elected Officials to Protect California

The officials thanked the Governor for announcing a moratorium on fracking and dangerous high-pressure cyclic steam injection oil drilling in some areas, and urged him to go further to phase out fossil fuel production in California that is driving the climate and public health emergencies. The officials raised the terrible environmental justice consequences, as low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected. 

"Climate Change is a nebulous concept for some. It can be hard to grasp the seriousness of our situation, said Mayor of Albany Nick Pilch. “That's why we leaders must lead the charge, and do all that we can to implement sustainable policies in our towns, cities, and counties."

Already, more than 80 local governments in California have passed more than 115 local policies to protect their communities from fossil fuels, including phase-out plans and setbacks on oil and gas drilling, climate lawsuits or divestment from fossil fuel companies, or opposing expansion of fossil fuel production or infrastructure. 

Elected county, city, school board, and local officials from across the state, who launched Elected Officials to Protect California in 2018, are taking action both within their respective jurisdictions and across California to end the extraction of dirty fossil fuel that harms their constituents and the environment.  

On November 19, 2019, Governor Newsom announced a halt on new oil extraction wells that use high-pressure steam injection drilling, an independent review of new fracking permits, and a new rule-making process for public health and safety protections near oil and gas extraction facilities set to take place next year.

Councilmember Dan Kalb, City of Oakland speaks at Alameda City Hall on Wednesday, urging Governor Newsom to act to address fossil fuel production in California amid record climate disasters.  Photo credit: Elected Officials to Protect CaliforniaThe officials welcomed the state’s policy shift on fossil fuel production, and stood ready to work with the Governor. The network is asking Gov. Newsom to go further by halting permits for all new fossil fuel projects, prohibiting drilling within 2,500 feet of homes and vulnerable areas and committing the state to 100 percent renewable energy in all sectors.

Despite its reputation as a global climate leader, California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states. Oil produced in California is some of the dirtiest and most climate-damaging crude in the world. Governor Newsom has taken small steps with the recent moratorium on certain types of drilling, yet there is no comprehensive plan to ramp down extraction. In fact, more than 21,000 permits for new drilling have been issued since 2011. Of these 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 most damaging health risks of oil and gas drilling occur within a one-half mile radius of active oil and gas development, according to the California Council on Science and Technology. Yet, California has no statewide policy limiting the proximity of drilling to homes, schools or other sensitive areas. According to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of California voters support phasing out oil and gas drilling within half a mile of homes, schools and other vulnerable sites.

Santa Rosa students at a Youth Climate Strike. More than 6 million people, including tens of thousands in California, marched in the September Climate Strike demanding action to phase out fossil fuels. Screenshot - vimeo.com/324869317 - advanced search free use.

More than 6 million people, including tens of thousands in California, marched in the September Climate Strike demanding action to phase out fossil fuels. More than 750 grassroots organizations in California and around the world are urging the Golden State to set a global precedent by announcing a statewide plan to completely phase-out existing dirty fuel production and enact 2,500 foot setbacks on drilling to protect public health and the climate.

The letter and signatories of Elected Officials to Protect California are at  californiaelectedofficials.org.

Photo credit: Elected Officials to Protect California

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