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According to US EPA, “environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Our fight for climate justice and our fight for racial justice are one in the same. Systems built on racism have policed Black and Brown bodies and polluted Black and Brown communities for far too long—creating decades of physical and mental health disparities that are causing people of color to face severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of us, together, must take action to dismantle white supremacy—that includes the fossil fuel industry.

The transition to clean, climate-safe energy will produce hundreds of thousands of new jobs in California, including in renewable energy, new or upgraded infrastructure, public transportation and much more. As these new jobs are created, we need to work together to make sure that they are good jobs that support our families and strengthen our unions. And as we wind down fossil fuels, we need to make sure that every worker affected by change in fossil fuel industries is guaranteed a good job or a good retirement so no worker, and no community is left behind.

We have seen the devastation of failed, un-just transitions off of coal and other industrial sectors worldwide. California’s leaders must convene stakeholders from the bottom-up to invest serious resources in this plan like those in Germany and elsewhere.

To lead on public health, defend Californians of color, and once again make California a model of climate leadership, Governor Newsom must take the following key actions to dismantle the oil industry in California: ROLL out a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer, STOP issuing permits for new fossil fuel projects, and DROP existing oil production.

A buffer distance of 3,200 ft would be a common-sense, preventative measure that could limit communities’ exposure to toxic chemicals. Scientific studies show that  “the development of oil and gas close to human populations poses higher risks of exposure to health-damaging air pollutants than the development of oil and gas further away from human populations.” 

Governor Newsom’s proposed draft rule falls short of true equity and justice in many ways because it does not extend the setback regulation to existing wells or redrilling permits at those existing sites. Though this recommendation is included in the official Public Health Expert advisory to the administration, it is absent from the draft rule.