FOSSIL FUEL FIGHT--California elected officials on Tuesday sent a letter urging Governor Jerry Brown to phase out fossil fuel production in the state. Elected Officials to Protect California, a group whose mission is "to empower bold, courageous leadership from elected officials on climate change from the ground up," sent the letter.
In it, the officials ask that Brown stop issuing permits for new fossil fuel projects; require a 2,500-foot "human health buffer zone" separating homes, parks, and farms from oil and gas facilities; and commit California to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.
"Phasing out fossil fuel production is paramount to address climate change and will make California healthier and cleaner while reducing water use," the letter states.
The issue is a personal one in areas directly affected by oil and gas development. "Oil fields make dreadful neighbor," Meghan Sahli-Wells, the vice mayor of Culver City, said in a statement, according to the Benicia Herald. Efforts to expand the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field, which borders Culver City, have been controversial in the surrounding communities, and the Culver City Council voted last week to phase out oil drilling.
Local efforts to ban new fossil fuel development are also underway in San Luis Obispo County, where voters will weigh in on the issue in the November election, the San Luis Obispo Tribunereports.
The letter to Brown followed a ruling by a federal judge Monday siding with fossil fuel companies in a lawsuit filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. The cities argued that Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell should put money behind projects to combat the effects of global warming in areas affected by the production of fossil fuels. The judge dismissed the lawsuit, writing in his decision that solutions on such issues should come from the legislative and executive branches, not the judicial branch. The New York Times notes that the decision is a warning to other local governments where similar suits are pending.
As Pacific Standard reported in May, a recent report from a coalition of environmental advocacy groups showed that oil production in California could effectively cancel out the state's commitments to reducing oil consumption. "We need to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate and health catastrophe, but California continues to hand out new drilling permits like candy," Kassie Siegel, the director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said following the release of the report.
Rebecca Worby is an associate editor at Pacific Standard where this piece was first posted. Her work has appeared in High Country News, Orion, Salon, Guernica, and elsewhere. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.