Dem lawmakers urge California governor to end fossil fuel extraction
Two Democratic members of Congress are urging California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to put a cap on any new fossil fuel projects and set a timeline for a hard stop on oil and gas extraction throughout the state.
In a letter sent to Brown on Wednesday, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) asked him to end all fossil fuel production in the Golden State as part of the governor's commitment to "driving transformational change."
The lawmakers mentioned threats of climate change, increased air pollution and impacts to low income communities in their reasoning for the sweeping request.
"We regularly hear from constituents about the tremendous burdens that fossil fuel production places on our communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color. California is home to some of the country’s most polluted air basins," Khanna and Lee wrote in the letter.
"The pollution from oil and gas field operations and refinery facilities is a major contributor to the array of air quality related health problems that hurt our most overburdened communities."
The lawmakers referenced a 2015 oil spill and a 2012 refinery explosion as examples of threats the fossil fuel production brought to the state.
"Ending the issuance of new permits for fossil fuel development and infrastructure will establish the standard for climate policy worldwide," the lawmakers wrote. "Ending permits for new wells and enacting a health and safety buffer could keep 660 million barrels of oil, equivalent to 425 million metric tons of carbon pollution, in the ground through 2030."
California is home to a number of oil and natural gas drilling sites, including dozens of offshore drilling platforms up and down the state's coastline. But the state's embrace of renewable energy has also in part led to its economic rise as the sixth biggest economy globally.
The letter follows the Trump administration's unveiling Tuesday of a replacement carbon emissions plan that would slash a rule first offered under the Obama administration. The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule instead aims to let states determine how to regulate their coal fired plants, a decision critics fear will increase carbon and soot pollution. Coal is a leading contributor to carbon air pollution globally.
Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown's office, said California is already on a path towards less fossil fuel dependence.
"Clearly, the world needs to curb its use of oil and the phase out is already underway in California where the state is committed to cutting consumption in half. At the same time, oil production in California has dropped 56 percent," he said.
"There’s a reason the White House and fossil fuel companies fight California on almost a daily basis – no jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere is doing more on climate."
In August the administration announced another proposed rule that would replace Obama-era vehicle emissions standards meant to curb air pollution from vehicles. Trump argued that the standards were set too stringent and economically hurt the auto industry.