California needs bolder climate leadership from governor
California has never been a state to shirk bold action, especially when it comes to protecting the environment. More than 40 years ago, we were among the first to regulate tailpipe emissions and implement energy efficiency standards. We’re currently on track to get half of our energy from renewables by 2030, and if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill on his desk, we’ll get 100 percent of our electricity from renewable and zero-carbon sources by 2045. From our bustling coastal cities, to the snowy caps of Yosemite, to Central Valley’s farmlands, Californians know we have a lot to protect.
The governor knows this. He opposed President Trump’s plans to drill offshore in federal waters and gut our trailblazing clean car standards. Brown has urged his peers to use “courage and imagination” to reverse our climate crisis. But as he emboldens other leaders, Brown needs to step up, too.
We face a climate crisis and a growing public health emergency brought on in part by rampant oil and gas development. Brown’s administration has issued more than 20,000 permits for new oil and gas wells. In some parts of the state children attend school steps from oil pump jacks.
More than 5 million Californians live within a mile of an active oil or gas well. The majority are from low-income communities and communities of color, which have long shouldered more of the burden of society’s addiction to fossil fuels than white, affluent ones. Multiple studies show that pollution from oil and gas infrastructure exposes us to respiratory problems, preterm births, and premature deaths.
Californians who do not live next to an oil or gas well are also at risk. In 2015, a ruptured pipeline in Santa Barbara spilled more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil, at least 21,000 gallons of which made it into the ocean. A 2012 explosion at the Chevron refinery in Richmond sent more than 15,000 people to emergency rooms. Spills and leaks are realities of oil and gas development.
Climate change continues to impact California. This is evident in the scorching temperatures, droughts, rising sea levels, and wildfires that currently plague us.
This is why it’s time for bold action. California went out on a limb when we created our clean car standards, writing our own rules that are now a model for a dozen other states. Now it’s time for the governor to use the Global Climate Summit to announce a plan to stop new oil and gas projects in his home state. Brown should be just as worried about the millions of Californians currently living onshore in the shadows of the fossil fuel industry as he is about the coastal communities threatened by the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan.
The governor should cease issuing permits for new oil and gas facilities and protect communities currently harmed by the oil and gas industry. California needs a safety buffer of at least half a mile between oil and gas infrastructure and places where people live, learn, work, and play. Finally, Brown needs to support current workers in the fossil fuel industry by investing in programs to make sure they have good paying, middle class jobs. Even oil and gas companies are recognizing the value of diversifying and expanding in the clean energy sector.
As the president plans to roll back Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan, we need leaders like the governor to offer a new vision. A plan to end new fossil fuel projects will set a new standard and continue to make California a laboratory for innovation. It also will be a model for new economic growth in the 21st century.
The world will be watching the governor during the Global Climate Action Summit. This is one of his last chances to show what real climate leadership looks like. It’s not an opportunity that California, or any of us, can afford for him to miss.