Coalition urges CA Governor to shut down Aliso Canyon facility, halt new fossil fuel projects

  • Published on March 31st, 2019

More than 120 national, statewide, and local organizations on March 27 delivered a letter urging Governor Gavin Newsom to take “bold action” to prevent the worst impacts of climate change in California, including shutting down the notorious Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, according to a news release from a coalition of groups.

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By Dan Bacher

During his campaign, Newsom pledged to “on day one … issue a directive putting California on a clear path to 100 percent renewable energy.”

“Yet nearly three months into his term he has not taken any significant steps on climate or outlined a comprehensive policy,” according to the groups.

Environmentalists point to moves by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recently announced his decision to forgo rebuilding three coastal gas plants as part of a shift to 100 percent renewable energy, and voiced support for shutting down the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon storage facility for good.

That facility was the site of the worst gas blowout in U.S. history in 2015, releasing 100,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. Groups called on Gov. Newsom to demonstrate leadership, close down Aliso Canyon, and take a series of steps to move California off fossil fuels.

“Now that Mayor Garcetti has announced ‘the beginning of the end of natural gas’ in L.A., there is no imaginable reason to keep the dangerous Aliso Canyon gas facility open for one more day,” said Alexandra Nagy, Senior Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “As a first step to protecting public health and our climate, Governor Newsom should take this action immediately.”

Gov. Newsom, who on the campaign trail agreed for the need to shut down Aliso Canyon, has the power to order regulators to decommission the facility.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom, please step up where your predecessor Jerry Brown chose not to,” said community member Kyoko Hibino, a Save Porter Ranch founder. “The unprecedented SoCalGas blowout caused people like me, my neighbors’ kids, and pets to become violently ill, with symptoms that we suffer from to this day. Fossil fuels are dangerous. Period. We have a choice to move forward to a clean, safe energy future, or continue to pay the price with human lives and health.”

The organizations also call on Gov. Newsom to immediately:
• End new oil and gas development
• Halt the most dangerous forms of drilling, like fracking, acidizing and cyclic steam
• Create a plan for ending all fossil fuel production in California in the next ten years
• Institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines, power plants, refineries and export facilities
• Implement a 2,500 foot setback for all current drilling projects to protect homes, schools, hospitals, and water supplies
• Protect the state’s water supply from oil and gas contamination by halting the injection of oil wastewater into aquifers and prohibiting the use of oil wastewater to irrigate crops
• Put California on the path to a fair and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 in line with scientific consensus and national calls for a green new deal

While campaigning, Gov. Newsom voiced his opposition to “fracking and other unsafe oil operations” and advocates say that given the threat posed to California from climate change, there is no safe way to continue oil and gas drilling.

Members of frontline communities urged him to step up and keep his promise to curtail fossil fuel operations.

“I am a living survivor of a major oil refinery explosion that occurred in front of my home which burned seven members of my family and injured over 200 people,” said Jesse Marquez, executive director of the Coalition for a Safe Environment. “I have lived all my life in the shadows of hundreds of operating and abandoned oil wells in my community of Wilmington, exposed to toxic air pollution every day. It is time for us to end our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“As a Native American activist, advisor for the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians, and co-chair of the Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition, I urge you to honor your promises to protect Mother Earth and to hear her call for immediate action,” said Emiliano Campobello.

“In this hour of need, we are grateful to have a leader of compassionate heart like yourself as governor. I pray that your heart will give you courage and lead the wisdom of your mind to support policies that preserve the future for all our children and the coming generations,” he added.

Health professionals emphasized that these steps are essential to safeguarding the wellbeing of Californians.

“As nurses we know that fossil fuel production and infrastructure pose significant threats to public health – and the climate disruption they cause will increase harmful health impacts for all Californians,” said Zenei Cortez, RN and co-president of the California Nurses Association. “Governor Newsom has a chance to come out early as a national climate leader, by taking bold action. That should start with a moratorium on dangerous fossil fuel projects and infrastructure to protect our communities locally and our planet globally.”

“It’s time we ended California’s environmental identity crisis and no one is better suited to lead us than Gov. Newsom with a long history of making strong statements against fracking and dangerous oil and gas development, combined with his refusal to take dirty oil money in the last election,” said David Braun, director of Rootskeeper. “We are hopeful that Gov. Newsom will live up to his promise by putting public health and the future of this planet above toxic oil industry profits”

As governor, Newsom has the broad authority to take these steps, according to the letter.

Read the letter here:

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.