On the heels of Judge William Alsup’s decision to dismiss San Francisco’s and Oakland’s climate change lawsuits, local California officials are turning to new symbolic tactics, including pressuring Governor Jerry Brown ahead of his Global Climate Action Summit.
A group of 150 local elected officials sent an open letter to Governor Jerry Brown last week to chastise him for not completely shutting down fossil-fuel production in the state.
In the letter, the local officials demanded that Governor Brown pursue a meaty list of harmful and unrealistic policies:
“Recognizing that we are in a climate emergency, as you have rightly done, and given the grave public health and environmental justice consequences of fossil fuel production in California, we respectfully urge you to make a new statewide commitment and lay out a plan for California to achieve the following:
“End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, including permits for new oil and gas wells, infrastructure for fossil fuels, and petrochemical projects in California.
“Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health buffer zone around all occupied structures, public parks and farms to protect public health and vulnerable communities.
“Commit the state to 100% clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and areas that are already suffering the most from the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction.”
To attract additional attention to the letter, Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Richmond Vice Mayor Melvin Willis wrote an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and decried the “toxic consequences of California’s complicity in one of the most toxic, polluting, dangerous industries on Earth…”
It is important to note that Richmond is one of the cities that filed a climate change lawsuit nearly identical to the lawsuits dismissed from officials in San Francisco, Oakland, and New York City.
The letter comes after reports that extreme environmentalists are livid that Governor Brown has refused deny all new fossil fuel development in the state. Kassie Siegel, a climate program director at the activist group Center for Biological Diversity, articulated this goal in response to a statement from the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources about California’s stringent environmental standards. “There’s no way that any new fossil-fuel development can be compatible with a safe climate,” Siegel claimed.
In addition to the Center for Biological Diversity, anti-energy groups like 350.org, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Hollywood United for a Healthy California, Oil Change International and others have partnered to create a campaign ominously named Brown’s Last Chance to pressure the retiring Governor ahead of his climate summit. The campaign also calls for the immediate ban of new fossil fuel production in California, as well as a plan to “phase-out all fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”
Notably absent from the list of activists attacking the governor are some of the country’s largest environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Resources Defense Council, and even the Sierra Club.
In an op-ed bravely written for the New York Times, a newspaper published approximately 3,000 miles east of Sacramento, 350.org founder Bill McKibben attempted to explain the intense focus on Governor Brown:
“So far, Mr. Brown has not stood up to the oil industry. He’s not alone, of course — very few leaders have shown this kind of courage. (In Canada, the theoretical climate champion Justin Trudeau recently nationalized a pipeline in order to make sure that the exploitation of Alberta’s dirty tar sands could continue.) But Mr. Brown is term-limited, not to mention 80 years old; he’ll never run for office again, so like no other leader, he could resist the financial might of the fossil fuel industry.”
In other words, Governor Brown has nothing to lose since he is on his way out the door.
As the climate change lawsuits brought by local governments continue to fail, local officials and radical environmentalists are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to take down the oil and gas industry. Instead of recognizing Governor Brown’s role in enacting aggressive climate change policies, local officials are now throwing the Governor under the bus to distract from their own failed efforts.
Instead of working towards consensus-oriented solutions to mitigate climate change, environmentalists continue to fight amongst each other over how best to attack oil and gas companies. We can only wonder how much more chaotic this will become if additional climate lawsuits are similarly thrown out by the courts, as many legal experts expect to happen.