Governor Newsom Moves State Along Historic Path Toward Carbon Neutrality by 2045

SACRAMENTO━ Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom launched an unprecedented new effort to begin phasing out in-state oil production as part of a plan to make the state carbon neutral by 2045. California, which boasts the fifth largest economy in the world and ranks among the nation’s top oil producers, will begin a process to strengthen health and safety requirements, including the consideration of a setback requirement near oil permitting, establish a moratorium on an extreme-extraction technique known as steam injection that poses serious contamination risks to nearby air and water sources, and establish new third-party review for fracking and other related permitting, with a moratorium on new fracking approvals pending further review.

Today’s historic move comes after over 700 organizations with Last Chance Alliance, have waged a multi-year campaign calling on California’s Governor to protect the health and safety of communities living on the front lines of the state’s massive fossil fuel industry, and to phase out the production of oil and gas in the state as a critical part of meeting the climate goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. The announcement follows an earlier commitment in the 2019-2020 state budget to identify strategies to decrease demand and supply of fossil fuels, as the state moves away from its dependence on oil toward renewable energy. Earlier this year, Governor Newsom also put in place a freeze on the issuance of permits for fracking, which has been reaffirmed today with a new process for review.

Despite the health and climate harms, California has long produced some of the dirtiest crude oil in the world, with operations taking place dangerously close to homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive sites. Studies have shown that proximity to oil development can cause and contribute to health effects such as headaches, upper respiratory illness, nausea, nosebleeds, increased cancer risk, and infertility. Steam injection, the technique that was announced will be halted until proven safe, is one of the most carbon-intensive forms of production in the state and facilitates a significant amount of overall production.

Couched by the Governor as part of the state’s climate action agenda, the moves to begin reining in oil production in the state put California in a position to set a global precedent amongst major oil production regions. Alongside steps in New Zealand, France, and Costa Rica to slow oil and gas production in response to climate concerns, Governor Newsom’s actions in California are among the first across the globe to recognize the critical nature of addressing the supply of fossil fuels as well as demand for them.

While frontline communities, and environment and health advocates are hailing the long waited for announcement from Governor Newsom they are also warning that much more needs to be done to address the urgent crisis facing the 5 million people who live closest to oil extraction of all kinds. They are calling on Governor Newsom to 1.) immediately halt the permitting of new oil and gas wells 2.) announce a phase-out of existing fossil fuel production and 3.) roll out mandatory, statewide 2,500ft. setback requirements between fossil-fuel infrastructure and homes, schools, and other sensitive sites.

In response to the Governor’s announcement today, groups with Last Chance Alliance have issued the following statements:

“Today, Governor Newsom and his administration ushered a new day in California where the source of the climate emergency and fossil fuel public health crisis are finally being addressed,” said Gladys Limón, Executive Director of California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We hope that these initial strong actions result in strong, durable measures that provide overdue relief to frontline communities, which have long fought to protect their families from the unconscionable health and safety burdens of oil operations next to their homes and schools. We look forward to working with the administration to meaningfully protect communities from these harms and further catalyze our state toward a prosperous and safe fossil-free California.”

“Finally, we see action from our California leaders. When Governor Newsom came to see the spill in Kern first hand we were clear that we did not want another empty gesture; we wanted action! And that is what the people of California got in today’s announcement. CCEJN believes this moratorium will help protect environmental justice communities and public health. We see this as a first step toward meaningful protections to the most vulnerable populations. We are optimistic that in the near future this administration will also establish an oil and gas setback in areas where people live, work and study while breathing poisonous gases. No one deserves to have polluters in their backyard,” said Cesar Aguirre, community organizer with Central California Environmental Justice Network.

“This is a great victory for residents in Arvin, Lamont, Weedpatch, Bakersfield, Shafter, Lost Hills and Delano, who have fought for years for tougher regulations and more community protections against dangerous oil extraction methods and drilling too close to where people live and go to school,” said Juan Flores, a Kern County community organizer with The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

“We look forward to working with the administration in creating meaningful health-protective measures in communities most impacted by drilling activities,” said Bahram Fazeli, Policy Director at Communities for a Better Environment and Co-Chair of the STAND-LA Coalition.

“Gov. Newsom’s historic action protects Californians from some of the most dangerous and destructive oil-extraction techniques,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This marks the turning of the tide against the oil industry, which has been allowed to drill at will in our state for more than 150 years. This is the kind of leadership necessary to make California the first major oil-producing state to phase out extraction and protect people and our planet from dirty fossil fuels.”

“Today’s announcement is a long-overdue acknowledgment of the climate and health emergency that tens of thousands of Californians — overwhelmingly low income people of color — on the frontlines of oil and gas extraction are living with,” Martha Dina Arguello Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles and Co-Chair of the STAND-LA Coalition. “We applaud Governor Newsom for charting a path to establish strong health protections, and we reaffirm that health and safety buffers to protect communities from dangerous fossil fuel production are a necessary first step toward a complete phase-out of fossil fuels in our state.”

Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, said: “On behalf of more than 307 local elected officials from 49 counties across California, we applaud today’s announcement and thank Governor Newsom for taking bold action to begin addressing fossil fuel production’s terrible costs to California. These urgently-needed steps are critical to protect Californians from the severe public health and safety harms of oil and gas extraction on our communities, and begin phasing out oil and gas production to address the climate emergency. “

“The science is clear. We need to protect our kids from the dangerous chemicals that are associated with oil and gas drilling,” said Dan Jacobson, state director, Environment California. “In addition, the only way we can meet our climate goals is to phase out oil and gas production. This is a step in the right direction, thank you Governor Newsom. Now it’s time to take the next 10 steps.”

“Governor Newsom has shown the world today that the future of climate leadership means saying ‘no’ to the fossil fuel industry’s dreams of endless expansion. While there is still a long road ahead, the measures announced today are important steps towards comprehensive action to phase out California’s oil and gas production and align its economy with climate safety,” said Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. “Communities on the frontlines of oil and gas extraction will continue to suffer until fossil fuel production is phased out completely, but today’s announcements mark key steps in the right direction. Ultimately, the only ‘safe’ approach to oil and gas extraction is to phase it out.”

“As one of the country’s largest oil producers, California has the opportunity to show the world what a truly just transition off fossil fuels looks like. We’re encouraged that Governor Newsom is talking about the need for a just transition and a managed decline off of fossil fuels, and that he’s taking this step in establishing a moratorium on high pressure cyclic steam extraction. What’s really needed is a halt on all new oil and gas drilling permits and a 2500’ public health setback. Today’s action should be the first of many that Governor Newsom takes to transition California off fossil fuels in a way that protects communities, workers, and the environment,” said Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

“The governor has given new hope to people and communities who have struggled with the polluting impacts of oil extraction for far too long. This is good news for everyone who recognizes that we need to keep oil in the ground to protect public health and the environment,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California.

“California is starting to live up to its promise of climate leadership by pivoting away from oil production, a necessary first step to protect the global climate. We are heartened by the state’s steps towards a managed decline from oil, and we call on other oil and gas producing states to do the same,” said Jennifer Krill, Executive Director, Earthworks.

“As mothers, grandmothers and others, we commend Governor Newsom for taking this historic first step towards protect California families living near oil and gas extraction from the dangerous chemicals they are exposed to on a daily basis. We hope that he will move swiftly to impose a science-based 2500-foot health and safety buffer zone between drilling operations and sensitive sites like homes, schools and daycares,” said Linda Hutchins-Knowles, California Senior Organizer with the grassroots organization Mothers Out Front. “We also commend Governor Newsom for placing a moratorium on the extreme-extraction technique of steam injection. We urge him to take the next step to place a moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling in the state. So we applaud Governor Newsom for taking these first critical steps, and we look forward to supporting him to take many more steps to ensure a healthy environment today and a livable climate tomorrow for all children.”

“We can’t fight climate change without phasing out fossil fuels, and there is no justice while frontline communities face deadly pollution,” said Nicole Ghio, Senior Fossil Fuels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Governor Newsom’s actions are a step towards California becoming a true climate leader. The Governor’s plans to address extreme extraction practices and build safeguards for communities put the health and safety of Californians, not markets, at the center of the climate fight.”

“While we are encouraged by the moratorium on cyclic steam which is needed, much more needs to be done to address oil and gas issues in California,” said Mark Schlosberg, Political Director at Food & Water Action. “We urge Governor Newsom to immediately institute a complete ban on fracking, stop issuing new drilling permits which have been increasing under his administration, and use his executive authority to protect communities across the state now.”

“Young people across this state, country, and planet understand that our future depends on a just transition off of fossil fuels. For too long California has focused on slowly reducing the demand for oil and gas, while vulnerable communities are poisoned by the extraction and production of fossil fuel resources in their backyards. It’s heartening to see the Governor begin to take on the supply side of the equation while grappling with the public health aspects of the climate crisis,” said Isaac Silk of Sunrise Movement Bay Area. “There is a long road ahead if we are going to truly restore a safe climate and protect frontline communities. We look forward to working with the Governor to enact strong regulation on an ambitious timeline.”

“Activism matters. Leadership matters. Huge thanks to both Gov. Newsom and the activists who have spoken up demanding that California lead the world on a transition away from fossil fuels,” said RL MIller, political director of Climate Hawks Vote.

“The same fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis are driving a cancer crisis,” said Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action. “Governor Newsom’s strong actions today are an encouraging and important step in protecting the health of California’s communities right now and into the future. Saying no to fossil fuels is essential if we are going to turn the tide on the breast cancer epidemic. We urge Governor Newsom to phase out fossil fuels completely to stop breast cancer where it starts.”

Michelle Romero, National Director of Green For All said, “Green For All applauds Governor Newsom’s bold leadership in taking the necessary first steps to phase California off fossil fuels. We are confident Governor Newsom can lead California through a successful transition off fossil fuels that protects both fossil fuel workers and pollution-impacted communities, setting a model for climate justice around the world.”