SACRAMENTO, CA – From Sacramento to San Diego, activists took the climate fight to the streets of their local communities yesterday to highlight the ways fossil fuel corporations are exploiting Russia’s war in Ukraine in order to make record profits at the pump and lock us into more in-state drilling. Demonstrations took place at gas stations and oil production sites in San Diego, the Central Coast, Oakland and Sacramento to expose the devastating pollution perpetuated by fossil fuels and the windfall profits oil companies are making by charging Californians more at the pump. Amid industry’s calls to increase drilling in the state, advocates with Last Chance Alliance called on Gov. Newsom to resist the industry pressure and protect their health and safety by halting new oil and gas permits and finalizing a strong 3,200 foot buffer rule separating communities from new and existing oil wells.

(Photos of the demonstrations are available for download.)

While gas prices soar and fossil fuel companies rake in record wartime profits, oil extraction continues to threaten the safety of communities across the state. In just the last few weeks, 30 idled and abandoned oil wells were found to be leaking high levels of methane, many at explosive levels, in Bakersfield neighborhoods. This is the latest example of the state’s refusal to hold oil operators accountable. California’s oil regulator, the Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM), failed to alert the surrounding community to the threat in a timely manner and has allowed oil companies to skirt the rules by putting up only a fraction of the bond money needed for the cleanup of their toxic sites.

“The only way to make sure polluters don’t keep getting away with putting our lives in danger is by having realistic, commonsense protections in place — there should be no more drilling where we are living and polluters must be forced to plug idle wells once and for all,” said Cesar Aguirre, the community organizer for Central California environmental Justice Network who was the first to alert his neighbors to the threat of ongoing methane leaks near their homes.

In Sacramento, activists performed a “die in” outside the headquarters of Western States Petroleum Association, the lobbying arm of the oil and gas industry in California, to highlight the health threats perpetuated by oil drilling which uses and emits known carcinogens and harmful greenhouse gasses that warm our planet. They then took the demonstration to the waters of the American River where “kayaktivists” paddled out in kayaks just yards from Gov. Newsom’s residence to share their message on banners and signs. 

On the central coast, climate advocates brought banners and signs to the Phillips 66 refinery in Santa Maria. Organizers in Ventura held a demonstration in front of local oil infrastructure in response to the unprecedented $8 million campaign by fossil fuel companies to defeat measures that would have required basic environmental oversight. Activists in San Diego and Oakland echoed the call at local gas stations to expose the oil industry’s history of exploiting California communities and ripping off drivers for the cost of filling up their tanks.  

At this critical time for our climate, advocates are urging Gov. Newsom to honor the commitments he made at his State of the State address earlier this year when he said, “We need to be fighting polluters, not bolstering them.” The path forward, they say, is to end neighborhood drilling by finalizing a strong 3,200-foot buffer rule that separates both new and existing industrial oil operations from communities and ending permitting for new projects as the state works to phase out fossil fuels.