By: Maricruz Ramirez, Community Organizer with Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

There has been no more urgent period in history for humans to reconsider their reliance on oil and gas. The ever-increasing gas prices have made it undeniably clear that US residents have been held hostage by the greed and corruption of oil companies. Along with the volatile tensions between Russia and Ukraine, our daily life has been heavily disrupted by Big Oil’s greed. Meanwhile, the climate crisis – fueled by fossil fuels – is only getting worse. According to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).” Yet still, millions of people across California, predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities as well as other communities of color and low-income communities are still being forced to breathe in the oil industry’s pollution in their neighborhoods every day. We are living in a significant juncture where we can demand real change and call for an end to oil and gas dependency while making sure workers in Kern are prioritized when we transition.  It is time to move away from our reliance on oil and gas in order to release the grasp that oil companies have long held on the necks of the working and poor classes. The technology exists, but we need the political will. It is time to demand that Governor Gavin Newsom say no to new permits for oil extraction – especially for new and existing wells within neighborhoods – and call for a swift equitable transition off of current fossil fuels. 


On this day being Earth Day 2022, we must call on Governor Newsom to build on his recent climate leadership, to end permitting for new fossil fuel projects, including existing wells when ending neighborhood drilling, and for a swift just-transition off of current fossil fuels. Last year on Earth Day, Governor Newsom promised to end fracking, but the goalposts have been moved. Each year of delay and faltering from the state exposes our communities to harsher realities of the current climate emergency. California is unhappy with the way oil and gas continue to take precedence over our health and well-being. In order for our communities to be protected, California must stop permitting new fossil fuel projects now and it must phase out existing production on a timeline aligned with climate science and climate justice.


In the Central Valley, the dominance of oil and gas is impossible to ignore. Oil and gas companies say they care about the communities because they buy a park, sponsor a soccer team or classroom, or do an annual coat drive, all while avoiding the elephant in the room: these services have been privatized because sitting local, state and federal decision makers have spent years removing funding from our public services. It is no secret that those in power choose to lie in bed with Big Oil and forsake the well-being of their constituents. Just a few weeks ago on March 15th, the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution that asked the state of California to suspend limitations on oil and gas permitting and extraction. Simply put, the Kern County Board of Supervisors asked to give special treatment to the oil and gas sector, reversing the heroic efforts that local organizers have worked for in the Central Valley and keeping us dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Locally, we face a battle against the predatory oil companies as they continue polluting our communities, drilling in our backyards and near our schools. Statewide, polluter greed continues to run rampant. It is time to act in opposition to this greed.


This Earth Day, we are taking action by speaking up and highlighting how Big Oil has taken advantage of a global crisis to charge $7 for a gallon of gas. We are taking action because we deserve to live in a society that does not rely on the greed of oil and gas executives. We are taking action because extreme fires, drought and heat – fueled by the climate crisis –  are already taking their toll on Californians. We are taking action because we believe in worker power, unionization, and taking back what we are owed. Most importantly, we are taking action because we deserve to live in a world with clean air and water and a climate capable of supporting human life and society. Governor Gavin Newsom must create strong setbacks that truly end neighborhood drilling and say no to new permits for oil wells in order for that to be a possibility. Those are vital steps towards a world that does not fall victim to the climate crisis, simultaneously protecting California from Big Oil’s price gouging and global volatility.