SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF.— San Luis Obispo 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, local elected officials from across San Luis Obispo County stood in solidarity with the people of Australia and called for emergency action.
With the climate crisis polling as the top issue for California voters and with deadly fires and climate disasters worsening 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.
“California's oil and gas industries threaten the public's health, risk the safety of our communities, and continue to heat up our climate beyond safe levels. The climate crisis demands action at all levels of government,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon. “That’s why we’re calling on Governor Newsom to enact a comprehensive climate emergency plan that will phase out the production and burning of oil and gas.”
The elected officials in San Luis Obispo 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 elected officials from 49 counties.
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.
“California has been a leader in the world in addressing climate change but there’s still so much more to do to wean us from oil,” said San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill, 3rd District. “That’s why I’m proud to support this effort.”
The push from elected officials comes days after the Trump administration announced expanded fracking and drilling on federal lands in several counties in California, including San Luis Obispo County.
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.
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.
"Morro Bay is susceptible to extreme weather, and coastal erosion caused by climate change. The governor needs to realize the state is in a state of emergency - a climate emergency,” said Morro Bay Mayor John Headding. “It's time for Sacramento to act to protect our citizens and businesses not fossil fuel corporations."
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.
The 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.
"Our unincorporated beach town is on the front line of sea level rise and extreme weather conditions. The climate emergency puts our homes, businesses and critical infrastructure at unnecessary risk,” said Cynthia Replogle, Oceano Community Service District Director. “The impacts could be devastating to our disadvantaged, half-Latinx community, and we need to take steps now to mitigate those impacts."
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.
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 .