750 groups call on Jerry Brown to halt new dirty oil and gas projects

  • Published on April 20th, 2018

The groups from California and around the world kicked off a campaign urging Governor Jerry Brown to stop the build-out of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, keep oil and gas in the ground, and take immediate action to protect those most vulnerable to climate change or “lose their support for the global climate action summit that he will host five months from now in San Francisco,” a coalition press release stated.

Greenpeace vs Jerry Brown and big OilBy Dan Bacher

As an investigative journalist who has spent hundreds of hours covering the dark side of Brown’s environmental policies in California, I’m very glad that such a large group of organizations is standing up to Brown’s support of new oil and gas drilling in California.

There appears to be a widely-held misconception among fishermen, environmentalists and legislators that new offshore oil wells have not been approved off the California coast in recent years.

The reality is much different. In fact, Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved 238 new offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases off Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 2012 to 2016, an increase of 17 percent, according to an analysis of Department of Conservation data by the Fracktracker Alliance. Roughly 171 of them were still active as of a year ago.

In addition, the number of  active onshore oil and gas wells has jumped 23 percent from 53,825 in 2009, the year before Brown was elected Governor, to 66,516 onshore wells at the end of 2016, according to Department of Conservation data.

The number of wells drilled and completed in 2014 alone jumped by 67 percent over 2011 to 6,896 from 4,636 on Governor Brown’s watch. The FracTacker Alliance report is available here: https://www.fractracker.org/2017/02/more-offshore-drilling-ca/

The coalition sponsored billboards in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento and placed a full-page advertisement in the Sacramento Bee, in addition to launching the thermal airship over San Francisco Bay, to challenge Brown for “falling short on plans to limit fossil fuels in the state. “

You can view the billboards, ad, and airship at www.BrownsLastChance.com, a new website where the groups are rallying the public to join the effort.

“We, the undersigned environmental, health, justice, faith, labor, community and consumer organizations from California and around the world, strongly urge you to champion a vision for California that looks beyond the oil and gas industry to a future that is safe and healthy for everyone,” the letter states.

“In order for us to support the summit, we call on you to:

  1. Lead by announcing no new permits for oil and gas extraction, fossil fuel infrastructure, or petrochemical projects in California.
  2. Set a global precedent by becoming the first oil producing state to announce a phase-out of existing production in line with the Paris climate goals, with a just and equitable transition that protects workers, communities, and economies, starting in places that are suffering most from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction.” 

Read the full letter at http://brownslastchance.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DearGovernorBrown.pdf

Brown, who receives accolades around the world and fawning media attention for his purported role as a “climate leader,” is hosting the Global Climate Action Summit September 12-14 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Idle No More SF Bay, Mothers Out Front, Oil Change International and Greenpeace held a press conference today on the sidewalk in front of Moscone Center in San Francisco to put Brown “on notice that he has five months to act if he wants the summit to be a success.”

The groups unveiled a billboard on Interstate 80, near downtown San Francisco, quoting Brown’s own words to urge him to act.

It reads: “Governor Brown, if dirty oil has us ‘on the road to hell,’ turn us around. See you at the Global Climate Action Summit.”

Another billboard on Interstate 5 in Sacramento — the freeway Brown uses to commute to his ranch in Colusa County — quotes Pope Francis in an effort to urge Brown to act: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent & necessary to do so?”

Residents living near oil and gas drilling sites speak out against Brown’s support of oil industry expansion

California residents whose health has been adversely impacted by living near oil and gas drilling sites in the nation’s third largest oil producing state joined the groups in urging Brown to stop the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.

In Los Angeles, the Communities For A Better Environment, Consumer Watchdog, Food and Water Watch, and Physicians For Social Responsibility simultaneously held a press conference with residents suffering from oil-related health problems on the edge of the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oilfield in the United States.

You can view Brown’s Last Stand press conference in LA here: https://youtu.be/4WV5of2ZJlM 

A billboard amidst the wells off La Cienega Blvd proclaims, “Dear Governor Brown, Is dirty oil the future you will leave our children? See you at the Global Climate Action Summit.”

In the letter, the Brown’s Last Chance coalition said that “there is a gap between current state policies and what is needed to avert the worst effects of climate change.”

“Over the last seven years, Governor Brown has stood idly by while California has continued to aggressively drill for dirty oil, maintaining the state’s position as one of the U.S.’s biggest oil producing states. Without freezing the build-out of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and new oil and gas drilling permits, the groups said that California’s commitments to climate goals outlined in Paris will not be met,” according to the coalition’s press release.

Those personally experiencing illness from ongoing oil and gas operations and those who had to flee the scene of disasters including the biggest methane well blowout in U.S. history at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility told their stories in Los Angeles, as well at the press conference in San Francisco.

“Frontline residents have long represented the health burdens of living near oil and we deserve better,” said Ashley Hernandez, who lives near the Wilmington oil field, the third largest oil field in the US. “Living near oil drilling is no sanctuary. Governor Brown is not a champion to our frontline communities and is perpetuating environmental racism. We deserve justice at every level, including environmental justice.”  

Ashley discussed the headaches, nosebleeds, asthma, heart palpitations and cancer that residents deal with while living near oil fields. In Wilmington, over 56,000 people live near 6,000 oil wells, almost half of LA’s oil fields.

“While Governor Brown presents himself as a climate hero, we understand that he is still in bed with Big Oil and has received millions of dollars in contributions from fossil fuel corporations,” said Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder of Idle No More SF Bay and a resident of Richmond near the Chevron refinery.

“During his most recent time as governor, there has been more fracking in the state, 17% more offshore oil drilling, toxic wastewater from fracking injected into over 500 aquifers – during the drought, and a push for the false solution of carbon trading which continues to allow the fossil fuel industry to pollute and emit greenhouse gases. It’s time for Governor Brown’s words and actions to align and for him to work for real climate solutions and leave fossil fuels in the ground. We don’t have a minute to waste in moving toward a fossil free world,” said Plant.

“The people of California’s Central Valley are forced to breathe some of the dirtiest air in the nation, and Kern County has the worst air in the United States, because of oil drilling,” emphasized Cesar Aguirre, a community organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN). “Communities in the Central Valley are overburdened by several kinds of contamination, especially that caused oil and gas drilling.”

“The climate crisis isn’t just happening in our atmosphere, it’s also happening in our lungs when we breath poisoned air created by dirty oil drilling. The more they drill, the worse the impacts for the health and safety of people in my community. It’s time for Governor Brown to step up, stop new drilling, and make a plan to get California off of dirty oil,” urged Aguirre.

“Climate change is threatening the future of the planet and humanity, and fossil fuels are a huge part of that problem,” said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. “We are literally and figuratively digging ourselves into a hole with our addiction to fossil fuels, and the first thing we need to do to address the damage is to stop digging. This is the time for Governor Brown to set an example for all world leaders and phase out fossil fuels in California.”

“California’s dirty oil extraction will undercut all the other progress our state makes fighting climate change,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Brown’s global climate summit will be a sham unless he reins in the drilling free-for-all in his own state first.”

Adam Scow, California Director of Food and Water Watch, pointed out that “Governor Brown has not yet shown that he is willing to step and take on the oil and gas industry. He can’t have it both ways.” –

“This has been Kabuki Theatre,” Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog summed up. “Jerry Brown has not moved one oil well out and we’re the third largest oil producing state.”

For the full list of the more than 750 groups signing the letter, http://brownslastchance.com/signed-orgs/

Background: Big Oil is the state’s largest corporate lobby

Why are California politicians, especially Governor Brown, so beholden to Big Oil and Big Gas?

Here’s why: The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, and its members have contributed $170 million to California political campaigns since 2001, according to a data analysis from MapLight released on February 14.

WSPA is the trade association for oil industry interests in the western states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. WSPA members include multinational oil corporations such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Valero and the Plains All American Pipeline Company, the corporation responsible for the Refugio Beach Oil Spill of 2017.

WSPA and its members have contributed more than $112 million to ballot measure campaigns, $8 million to state candidates, and $50 million to other California political action committees and party committees, according to the MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State compiled by Laura Curlin and Ashleigh McEvoy.

“Chevron tops the list of political donors from WSPA’s membership, contributing $89 million overall since 2001, the first year in which online data is available,” Maplight reported. “Aera Energy has contributed the second most at roughly $40 million, and Valero is third at $13 million.

The report documents all of the California legislators who have received campaign contributions from the oil industry since 2001. You can explore data on the campaign contributions from WSPA members – including contributions from each organization, top recipients serving in the California State Legislature, and contribution patterns over time by going to: maplight.org/…

While the amount of money individual legislators have received from WSPA members is alarming, they pale in comparison to the $9.8 million from oil companies, gas companies and utilities that “climate leader” Governor Jerry Brown has received since he ran for his third term as governor, according to Consumer Watchdog. For more information on Governor Brown and his so-called “green” policies, see: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2017-09/how_green_is_brown.pdf

In addition to pouring millions into campaigns, WSPA “augments its political influence with a massive lobbying presence in Sacramento,” topping the list of lobbyist spending in California in the third quarter of 2017, according to Maplight.

Big Oil dominated three out of the four top spots of expenditures by all lobbying organizations in 2017, according to documents from the California Secretary of State’s Office that I analyzed.

Outspending all of their competition, Chevron placed first with $8.2 million and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the trade association for the oil industry in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona, placed second  $6.2 million. Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company finished fourth with $3.2 million. You can find the information on spending by employers of lobbyists here: cal-access.sos.ca.gov/…

That’s a total of $17.6 million dumped into lobbying by the three top oil industry lobbying organizations alone. That figure exceeds the $14,577,314 expended by all 16 oil lobby organizations in 2016.

Big Oil has become so powerful in California, in spite of the state’s “green” image, that every bill except one opposed by the oil industry has failed to make it out of the legislature over the past three years.

But WSPA and Big Oil wield their money and power not just through spending millions of dollars on lobbying and political campaigns. They also create Astroturf groups, work in collaboration with the media, and get appointed to positions on and influence key regulatory panels.

For example, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012, in addition to serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

There is no doubt that Brown’s support of increased offshore and onshore drilling in California occurs within the larger context of the capture of the state’s regulatory apparatus by Big Oil and Big Gas.

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.