Labor and green groups ask California to protect people, not polluters

  • Published on May 19th, 2020

A coalition of 100 labor and environmental groups has  sent a letter asking California Governor Gavin Newsom and California State Legislators to “protect people and not polluters” during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

oil drilling in a California neighborhood

By Dan Bacher

The letter was issued at time when Newsom has showed increasing signs of caving to the fossil fuel industry. As oil prices crashed to below zero at one point and dozens of oil tankers idled off the California coast, new oil and gas drilling permits increased 7.8 percent under Governor Gavin Newsom during the first quarter of 2020 through April 4 as compared to the first quarter of 2019, according to a report issued by Consumer Watchdog and the Fractracker Alliance on May 7.

In addition, California’s Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM) has indicated they will roll back regulatory requirements for the testing and cleanup of oil wells in the state:  https://www.kqed.org/news/11817384/with-oil-industry-in-slump-state-offers-a-break-on-some-well-regulations

“I understand that the unprecedented economic impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have caused significant, unanticipated financial constraints on your members,” stated State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk in letters to the Western States Petroleum Association and the California Independent Petroleum Association. On May 1, state oil and gas regulators published the changes in a notice on the CalGEM website.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Newsom administration announced the it was cancelling a new plan to hire 53 new staff to regulate the oil and gas industry as the revised May state budget was released, even though funds for positions would be paid by the industry itself.

Labor groups, including the Federation of Teachers Local 1931, United Domestic Workers and UFCW Local 324, today joined climate and environmental justice groups in calling on Newsom to resist fossil fuel bailouts and instead use coronavirus recovery funds to support workers and communities.

To address the interlinked COVID-19, climate, health, environmental justice, housing, and economic crises California faces, labor and environmental organizations called in their letter for policies that:

  • Provide wage replacement with no strings attached.
  • Broaden the eligibility of the earned income and childcare tax credits to include all immigrants.
  • Provide high-quality healthcare for everyone, including expanding Medi-Cal to all workers regardless of immigration status.
  • Strengthen the right to workplace organizing and enhance critical protections or all workers, including farmworkers and domestic workers.

The letter to Newsom and California legislators states:

Thank you for your leadership on COVID-19. We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone and applaud your bold, science-based leadership to protect Californians. As you consider options to address the economic damage and individual hardship created by COVID-19, we request that you continue this important work by using your authority to protect people rather than polluters. Specifically, we urge you to focus relief and stimulus funds on actions that promote equity and support healthy communities free of pollution, and that you reject any measure that includes giveaways or waivers for fossil fuel corporations or their executives.

Workers in the fossil fuel industry, like workers in every industry, should receive direct relief during this crisis, and should receive transition assistance going forward as oil and gas production and use in California continues its inevitable decline. However, there should be no funding for fossil fuel corporations, executives and shareholders, and recovery funds must not be used to promote fossil fuel production or infrastructure. 

The letter also states:

“The immediate response must focus on providing emergency relief directly to the workers and communities who need it.

There must be absolutely no funding for fossil fuel corporations, executives and shareholders nor any measures that would promote fossil fuel production or infrastructure.

Recovery funds should provide long-term security to workers and communities impacted by the needed transition away from fossil fuels.”

The letter concludes:

“We need relief measures that protect people and help create a more just, equitable, and sustainable economy as we close the book on fossil fuels. We are looking to you for this leadership.”

Newsom has continued Governor Jerry Brown’s expansion of oil and gas drilling in California since he became Governor in January 2019. Consumer Watchdog and FrackTrackerAlliance reported that the Newsom Administration issued 1,623 permits during the first quarter of the year. The California Department of Conservation on April 3 also approved 24 new fracking permits in Kern County during the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and after a nearly six-month moratorium on new fracking operations.

The number of oil permits issued under Newsom since he took office in January 2019 now comes to a total of 6,168. The permit numbers and locations are posted and updated on an interactive map at the website: NewsomWellWatch.com

Here is the long list of organizations that signed the letter:

Drew Hudson, 198 methods
Kathy Dervin MPH, 350 Bay Area Action Melissa Brice, 350 Chicago
Alan Weiner, 350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley Laurie Litman, 350 Sacramento
Emily Williams, 350 Santa Barbara
Nicole Kemeny, 350 Silicon Valley

Sherry Lear, 350 South Bay Los Angeles
Matt Leonard, 350.org
Jonathan Zeichner, A Place Called Home
Barbara Sattler, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments / USF James Miller, American Federation of Teachers Local 1931

Sarah Stewart, Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.
Sylvia Chi, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Marce Gutiérrez-Graudins, Azul
David Gassman, Bay Area-System Change not Climate Change Gary Hughes, Biofuelwatch

Karuna Jaggar, Breast Cancer Action
Rebecca Roter, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County
Neena Mohan, California Environmental Justice Alliance
Jason Pfeifle, Californians Against Fracking
David J. Parker, Canadian Engaged Buddhism Association
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity
Ingrid Brostrom, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
Kevin Hamilton, Central California Asthma Collaborative
Nayamin Martinez, Central California Environmental Justice Network
Daniel O’Connell, Central Valley Partnership
Mary Smith, Church Women United in New York State
RL Miller, Climate Hawks Vote
Michael Zelniker, Climate Reality Project Los Angeles Chapter
Bahram Fazeli, Communities for a Better Environment
Denise Boggs, Conservation Congress
Rebeca Zuniga, Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Mary Gutierrez, Earth Action, Inc.
Jennifer Krill, Earthworks
Dan Brook, Eco-Eating
Martin Bourque, Ecology Center
Chelsea Kelly-Reif, Environmental Council of Sacramento County
Elvia Cruz-Garcia, Environmental Justice Alliance (UCSB)
Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation Alexandra Nagy, Food & Water Action
Vanessa Warheit, Fossil Free California
Brook Lenker, FracTracker Alliance
Nicole Ghio, Friends of the Earth
Caroline Henderson, Greenpeace USA
Dede Shelton, Hands Across the Sand / Land
Edward Wright, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club
Doug Bender, Indivisible South Bay LA
David Shirling, Indivisible SF
Mark J. Palmer, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute

David Levitus, LA Forward
Marcus Eriksen, Leap Lab
Clay Sandidge, Long Beach Community Choice Energy Working Group
Nancy Harris, Mendocino Coast Jewish Community Justice Group
Marilyn Price, Mill Valley Community Action Network
Sandy Naranjo, Mothers Out Front
Mary Brooks, Mountain Progressives Frazier Park
Carol Ehrle, Movement for a People’s Party (National)
Diana Bohn, Nicaragua Center for Community Action
Ann Rogers, NMEAC
Jerry Rivers, North American Climate, Conservation and Environment (NACCE)
Matt Malina, NYC H2O
Collin Rees, Oil Change International
Timothy Irvine, Our Revolution / Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento
Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Martha Dina Arguello, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles
Robert Gould, Physicians for Social Responsibility – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Antonio Diaz, PODER
Matt Nelson, Presente.org
David Braun, Rootskeeper
Joyce Lane, SanDiego350
Grace Feldmann, Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition
Daniel McCarter, Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council
Pauline Seales, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California
Jack Eidt, SoCal 350 Climate Action
Martha Camacho Rodriguez, Social Eco Education (SEE-LA)
Irene Cooke, Society of Fearless Grandmothers
Michael Eisenscher, Solidarity INFO Service
Eric Romann, Standing Together Against Neighborhood Drilling-LA (STAND-LA Coalition) Alexander Topmiller, Stanford Climate and Health
Shoshana Wechsler, Sunflower Alliance
Molly Morabito, Sunrise Bay Area
Pedro Hernandez, Sunrise Fresno
Sarah Goldzweig, Sunrise Movement Los Angeles
Winter Sierra, Sunrise Movement SB
Carmen Bouquin, Sunrise San Luis Obispo
Kylie Kirkwood, Sunrise Rancho Cucamonga
Anna Cummins, The 5 Gyres Institute
Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center
Missy Lahren, The Future of Energy
Melanie Winter, The River Project
Gabriel Van Praag, UCSB Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board

Andrea Zinder, UFCW Local 324
Doug Moore, United Domestic Workers
AJ Valenzuela, Ventura County Young Democrats
Lynne Nittler, Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice Lynne Nittler, Yolo Move-on
M.E. Gladis, Yolo Progressives
Dulce Arias, Youth vs Apocalypse

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.
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