CA Environmental Advocates Demand Climate Action From Newsom After West Virginia vs. EPA 

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – After the Supreme Court issued a decision stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate greenhouse gasses, environmental advocates in California are turning to Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the void of climate leadership.

In response to the ruling, Food & Water Watch Founder and Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court makes it abundantly clear that action to phase out fossil fuels and regulate greenhouse gasses must come from our elected leaders, if not our court system. Governor Newsom has strengthened California’s abortion protections in response to the Court’s attack on women’s rights. He must take action now to ensure California slashes its greenhouse gas emissions and transitions to clean energy. The California Air Resources Board’s plan for carbon neutrality by 2045 is far too late, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling today. Newsom must stop accepting fossil fuel permits immediately and urge CARB to come up with a plan that not only meets this moment, but also secures a livable future for California.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Legislature To Hear Bill That Risks Slashing Regulations And Community Voices In Process of Renewable Energy Approval

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA –  45 organizations signed onto a letter demanding lawmakers amend the “Streamlined Review” Sections of the 2022 Energy Reliability Resilience and Clean Energy Investments Trailer Bill, a piece of legislation designed to streamline the production of renewable energy infrastructure. Groups say while the bill is right to expedite the buildout of clean energy infrastructure, it is fatally flawed in its failure to include meaningful input from impacted communities. The bill also allows infrastructure projects to proceed with limited environmental review.  

“The trailer bill as currently written risks stripping community voices and environmental review from the renewable energy process,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “Community engagement is critical in California’s renewable energy infrastructure buildout. And based on the hundreds of people who gave public comments at last week’s CARB hearing, it’s clear that Californians want to be a part of this dialogue. Governor Newsom is right to expedite the buildout of renewable energy, but we can’t do it without the voices of our communities or the regulations designed to keep them safe.”

Read the full letter here.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Climate Justice Groups Slam California Climate Plan Ahead of Hearing

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA –  Over 150 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) slamming the agency’s proposed 2022 Draft Scoping Plan as wholly inadequate. The groups say the climate blueprint falls far short of the breadth and urgency needed to confront the climate and environmental justice crises. CARB will host a hearing to discuss the plan on June 23. The letter’s ambitious but achievable demands include:

Reach near-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035;

Phase out oil and gas production and transition to 100% clean, renewable electricity by 2030; 

Require all new car sales to be 100% electric vehicles by 2030 and scale up clean public transit;

Reject industry distractions like carbon capture, hydrogen, dirty bioenergy and carbon trading;

Prioritize direct emissions reductions that support immediate relief for overburdened communities of color and Indigenous Peoples and abandon carbon offset programs that lead to more pollution.

In its current form, the 2022 Draft Scoping Plan sets a vague and misleading target of ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2045, allowing the fossil fuel industry to keep polluting and failing to slash emissions at the scale and pace that the climate crisis demands. The plan relies heavily on carbon trading and offset programs like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), criticized by grassroots and environmental justice organizations for its use of public funds to bankroll emissions-heavy bioenergy projects in low-income communities.

The letter also calls for the plan to prioritize the voices of those historically left out of California’s environmental decisions, including communities of color and Indigenous Peoples, whose homes have become sacrifice zones on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction. By consulting with these communities, rapidly phasing out fossil fuels, and investing in clean, cost-effective energy solutions like solar, wind and battery storage, California can repair the drastic holes in CARB’s current plan.

The letter’s signatories released the following statements in response to the letter’s delivery:

“Indigenous Peoples of California have seen firsthand the desecration of our ancestral lands by the state of California and its extractive and polluting industries. Governor Newsom has an opportunity to change this destructive legacy by revising the 2022 draft Scoping Plan to stop the release of fossil fuel emissions at the source and end carbon neutrality mechanisms that prop up industry scams like carbon capture techno-fixes, carbon trading and offsets, hydrogen and bioenergy. These are not real solutions that will halt the devastation of fires and extreme water shortage,” said Thomas Joseph, Hoopa Valley Tribal member and organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “The time is now for the California Air Resources Board to put our communities first; before the polluting corporations. Governor Newsom, end this legacy of genocide against Indigenous Peoples and ecocide against Mother Earth and Father Sky. We need real solutions to end this climate crisis.”

“If Governor Newsom is serious about addressing the climate crisis, he and the California Air Resources Board must stop kicking the can down the road and stop entertaining fossil fuel industry schemes like carbon capture and hydrogen,” said Mark Schlosberg, Acting California Director of Food & Watch Watch. “California and the world are waiting for his leadership in moving us back from the climate cliff. This means setting aggressive goals for electrification of transit and buildings, stopping new fossil fuel drilling and infrastructure, and replacing dirty fuels with truly renewable energy by 2030.”

“Californians getting scorched by heat waves in June can’t wait for vague climate promises about 2045,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Gov. Newsom needs to send CARB back to the drawing board for a blueprint that locks in climate protection, not decades of fossil fuel pollution. We have the technology to protect people and the planet. What we need now is the political will to make a clean, climate-safe California a reality.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Morrow County Commission Declares State of Emergency Over Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

For Immediate Release

Boardman, OR – Morrow County, one of Oregon’s primary hubs for industrial agriculture and food processing, is under a state of emergency after numerous groundwater wells showed dangerously high nitrate pollution. A leading source of nitrates is industrial animal agriculture. Mega-dairies in particular produce massive amounts of nitrogen-laden waste that can easily seep into groundwater.

“It’s a relief to see the Morrow County Commissioners doing everything in their power to protect the drinking water of vulnerable Oregonians,” said Kristina Beggen, an organizer with Food & Water Watch and the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition. “But the problem of nitrate pollution can only be solved by addressing its primary source: the irresponsible waste management practices of mega-dairies. Our coalition petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its own emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act over two years ago, but the EPA has so far failed to act. It is past time to take decisive action to curb this dangerous, mega-polluting industry and protect Oregonians’ drinking water.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is currently considering an additional mega-dairy for Morrow County: the 28,000 cow Easterday Dairy. According to national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch’s latest research, the proposed Easterday Dairy operation in Boardman (within Morrow County) would produce nearly 6 million cubic feet of manure and 12 million cubic feet of wastewater per year. 

Beggen added, “In light of the State of Emergency, it would be wholly unconscionable to introduce another mega-polluting industrial dairy to Morrow County’s landscape. ODA and DEQ have no choice now but to deny Easterday Dairy’s permit and focus on providing clean, accessible water to their constituents.” 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

After Senate Appropriations Committee Guts Aliso Canyon Closure Bill, Senator Stern Urges “No” Vote

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – California Senator Henry Stern (D-LA) asked his colleagues to vote “no” on SB 1486 after the Appropriations Committee saddled the bill with amendments that stripped it of its key components: language defining a 2027 closure date for Aliso Canyon and establishing a moratorium on its use in the interim. SB 1486 failed in a 5 to 12 vote.

In response, Food & Water Watch Southern California Organizer Andrea Vega released this statement:

“Senator Stern’s courage in opposing his own bill after it was gutted by Sempra cannot be overstated. The fate of SB 1486 reminds us that fossil fuel interests wield dangerous power in our California legislature, and as long as their funds drive our climate policy our planet is doomed to burn. We applaud Senator Stern’s leadership in the fight to close Aliso Canyon and move California off fossil fuels, and hope Governor Newsom is watching. There is no reason for any more delays — Newsom must pave the way for a clean energy future for California by closing Aliso Canyon once and for all.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Research Details Skyrocketing Emissions and Water Use of Oregon’s 11 Mega-Dairies

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Salem, OR – New research from national advocacy group Food & Water Watch tracks the emissions of Oregon’s 11 dairy CAFOs, or mega-dairies, and reveals their profound impact on climate change and public health. According to Food & Water Watch’s findings, the yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles

Like the rest of the Western U.S., Oregon is experiencing the worst drought the region has seen in 1,200 years and is increasingly vulnerable to year-round wildfires. Morrow County holds the highest concentrations of Oregon’s mega-dairies despite the region’s dry, arid landscape, and is home to a large Hispanic/Latinx population, who are disproportionately impacted by the harms from mega-dairies. The research highlights the area as a key example of a population already overburdened from decades of industrial agricultural pollution. As weather trends reflect a warming planet and wildfires and drought become regular occurrences, the vulnerability of communities across Oregon to the health and environmental hazards of these facilities will grow. The report likewise refers to the expanding dairy digesters and resulting factory farm gas pipelines as dangerous for surrounding communities.

“Oregon needs an immediate moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies,” said Mackenzie Aime, Oregon Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “For years we have known that with mega-dairy expansion comes pollution and water scarcity. This new research makes clear that the emissions and water use of these industrial facilities will soon be felt by Oregonians all over the state. We need to reevaluate this flawed system instead of expanding or propping it up with scams like factory farm gas that will only entrench mega-dairies and dirty energy. ”

The report also flags the heavy emissions produced by the anaerobic digesters frequently used by industrial mega-dairies to capture methane. Burning the gas produced by the anaerobic digestion process releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants like smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, creating hazards for surrounding communities.

Other key statistics highlighted by the report:

  • Oregon’s 11 mega-dairies consume 8.2 million gallons of water a day just for drinking water and washing cows and buildings, enough to meet the average indoor daily water needs of over 124,000 Oregonians.
  • The yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles. 
  • Those emissions fuel mega-fires, which also fuel climate change. Oregon’s wildfires during the summer of 2021 produced 17 million tons of carbon dioxide — the warming equivalent of driving 3.7 million passenger cars for one year.

For years, the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, of which Food & Water Watch is a member, has called for a moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies and bold action to curtail the emissions and health hazards of unsustainable factory farming.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

West Ventura Community Rallies for Yes On Measures A And B

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – More than a hundred community members, climate activists and elected officials filled Kellogg Park to rally in support of the VC-SAFE Yes on Measures A and B campaign. The twin June 7 ballot measures would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted between 1930 and 1970.

 More than 60 percent of oil wells in Ventura County are next to Latinx homes. In West Ventura, the percentage is even higher. Oil and gas industry giants like Aera Energy spent millions of dollars to fight the loophole closures initially passed by the Board of Supervisors two years ago. The industry has collectively poured more than $8 million into the campaign against Measures A and B. 

“It’s corporate greed in its worst form,” said Tomás Rebecchi, a West Ventura resident and Central Coast Organizing Manager for Food & Water Watch. “They’re using record prices from price gouging us at the pump and they’re using that money to flood our county with $8 million of lies. We have some of the highest levels of pollution here in the Westside out of all of California. Study after study has shown living next to oil wells is bad for cancer, asthma, preterm birth, and we have hundreds of oil wells right next to our homes and schools here on the Westside.”

Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez said, “We are fighting not just for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren, all the future generations. Some day in the future, our descendants are going to say ‘what did our ancestors do? Did they do something to help us live a better life or did they condemn us to the hell on earth that we’re starting to see in India and other places where the temperatures are so hot that people cannot survive?’”

At a “toxics tour” after the rally, members of the media traveled to three locations that viscerally illustrate West Ventura’s long history as a sacrifice zone for fossil fuel interests: a gas compressor station across the street from an elementary school; an oil derrick on a community member’s property; and a decades-old petrochemical site with a history of explosions.

Across the street from the E.P. Foster Elementary School, community activist and local resident Liz Campos pulled her wheelchair up to the SoCalGas compressor site. Campos has Stage 4 lung cancer, which her doctors attribute to her living within a quarter of a mile from the SoCalGas compressor station. She has no prior history of lung cancer in her family. 

“I won’t be defeated,” said Campos, chair of the Westside Neighborhood Council and member of the Westside Clean Air Coalition.  “I will go to my death fighting for people who need to be able to breathe.”

Jan Dietrick owns a business with her husband, Ron, on a property that has been in her family for generations. Amid the family’s lush greenery and homegrown plants, an oil derrick bobs up and down. The permit originated in the 1940s, long before environmental review was required. Just outside her house, a sign lists the dangerous health impacts of proximity to the oil derrick — including cancer. The smell of oil is thick in the air.

“We don’t know what might be happening in the groundwater right now,” said Dietrick. “And groundwater is precious to this community. I would rather be growing my business than having to be out explaining to everybody in my neighborhood what’s the truth.”

Along Crooked Palm Road in West Ventura the remains of the USA PetroChem oil refinery still scar the landscape. The site was responsible for 23 fires and several explosions, releasing toxic emissions which caused adverse health impacts in the community. In 1978, a 19 year old man was fatally burned at one of the fires. 

“The toxic legacy in this community follows a dangerous pattern,” said John Brooks, an environmental activist who lives in Ojai. “There are spills, accidents, environmental damage and failure to obey regulations. In so many cases the taxpayers are charged for the cleanup. It’s such a pattern of bringing environmental damage and then saying goodbye, we’re leaving. It happens all the time.” 

The oil wells using these antiquated permits have no expiration date and no requirement for environmental review. If the ballot measures do not pass and the loopholes for the oil industry remain open, future oil drilling with these permits would not be subject to any other legislation limiting or regulating drilling (such as a ban on fracking or the institution of 3,200 foot buffer zones between community sites like schools and well operations).

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Bill to Close Aliso Canyon Gutted in Senate Appropriations Committee

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – In an eleventh hour reversal, the California Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1486, the bill to close SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility, after they saddled it with numerous amendments gutting the bill’s efficacy. Among the bill’s casualties are the 2027 shutdown timeline and any language creating a moratorium on Aliso Canyon’s use as anything other than a last resort. Climate activists immediately slammed the amendments.

“The Appropriation Committee’s amendments to SB 1486 are shameful,” said Andrea Vega, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “But even worse than the Senate leadership’s duplicity in gutting this bill is Governor Newsom’s complete failure to speak out on behalf of closing Aliso Canyon. Sempra is a powerful lobby group and we knew going into this fight that we faced a corporate interest with money to burn and no concern for the people sacrificed to its bottom line. We need Governor Newsom to take up this fight for the sake of justice and his climate agenda — we can’t have either as long as Aliso Canyon is still operating. SB 1486 is no longer the bold legislation Senator Stern championed, and Newsom is the only hope for the courageous climate action we need.”

In the first three months of this year alone, Sempra Energy, the parent company of SoCalGas, spent nearly $2 million lobbying the California legislature. Among the Appropriations Committee, recipients of Sempra money include Senator Portantino (D-25) ($22,250), Senator Bradford (D-35) ($34,300), Senator Jones (R-38) ($35,000). Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-39) has received $37,000.

While Governor Newsom has mandated a fast-track for the site’s closure, he declined to publicly support SB 1486 or any effort to solidify a closure timeline. The Public Utilities Commission voted to increase the site’s storage capacity in November 2021 despite strong community opposition. The 2015 gas blowout that made Aliso Canyon’s name synonymous with disaster sickened thousands of residents, many of whom are still suffering health effects like cancer and asthma today.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

LA City Council Passes Hydrogen Hub Motion Amid Environmental Concerns

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – Amid the vocal opposition of community and environmental advocates, the L.A. City Council unanimously voted in favor of a motion that will initiate an application process for federal funding from the Department of Energy that would create a “green” hydrogen hub in L.A. 

“L.A. doesn’t need a hydrogen hub to advance our clean energy goals,” said Food & Water Watch Senior L.A. Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “Cheaper, safer, less water intensive options exist right now and we should be looking to those before hydrogen enters the conversation. This process has been rushed, community voices have been left out, and there are many questions remaining. Even green hydrogen produced by electrolysis has the potential to be misused — particularly if it is blended with fossil gas at a power plant and piped into people’s homes. A hydrogen hub has the potential to be dangerous for our communities and disastrous for our drought. Today’s vote was made in haste, and we will continue to urge the L.A. City Councilmembers to heed the voices of their constituents and turn to safer, more sustainable power other than hydrogen for L.A.’s clean energy future.”

Chief among concerns raised by environmental justice leaders and climate groups: 

  • LADWP is considering plans to burn hydrogen at existing natural gas power plants, which can increase harmful NOx emissions sixfold. This is prompting concerns that even a “green” hydrogen hub could exacerbate issues of environmental injustice in communities already overburdened with pollution. 
  • The Hub will also likely require pipelines and storage facilities, creating concerns this highly volatile element can lead to potentially deadly explosions like those just seen in Bradford County, PA. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom’s Budget Champions Climate Scams

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed revisions to his 2022-23 budget in the midst of an unprecedented $97.5 billion surplus. Despite this windfall, the governor allocated no funding for his stated priority of phasing out oil and gas in California. Instead, Newsom dedicated $100 million for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), acknowledging environmental justice concerns but insisting on the necessity of the technology. Newsom also allocated $8 billion for investments in renewable energy, which includes green hydrogen, a notoriously water and energy intensive fuel frequently championed by utilities to maintain natural gas plants amid a renewable energy transition.

In response, Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager Tomás Morales Rebecchi issued the following statement:

“Newsom’s budget revisions support some of the worst climate scams available — unabated green hydrogen and carbon capture,” said Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager Tomás Morales Rebecchi. “CCS is a fossil fuel industry fantasy that allows business as usual when we can least afford it. And investing in a water-intensive fuel like green hydrogen during the worst drought California has seen in 1,200 years is dangerous and irresponsible. Newsom needs to stop funding these industry smokescreens that distract from real action like ending new permits for oil and gas development and holding corporate water abusers accountable. California has the means to get off fossil fuels and transition to clean energy right now without sacrificing community health or safety.”

Newsom also hailed desalination as a necessary tool to combat the drought, despite the Coastal Commission denying a large proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach in the wake of massive public outcry and environmental concerns. 

“Desalination is an expensive exercise in water inequity, driving up water costs and providing lucrative opportunities for fossil fuel expansion,” continued Rebecchi. “Newsom is touting a scam that will pad the wallets of private companies but won’t solve the drought crisis. It’s time for Newsom to learn what environmental advocates and scientists already know: we must invest in water conservation while cutting back on the corporate water abuses of Big Ag and Big Oil to secure safe and clean water for all Californians.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

As Voluntary Conservation Fails, Advocates Call For Mandates And Action to Address Factory Farm Water Use

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Morning headlines in California today announced that domestic water use climbed by 19 percent in March, signaling the clear failure of Governor Gavin Newsom’s repeated pleas for voluntary reductions in household water consumption. Environmental advocates have long urged mandatory action to curb excessive urban water use and the need to rein in some of the biggest corporate water abusers, which Newsom has thus far ignored.

Research from the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch lays out the enormous scale of corporate water abuse among fossil fuel interests and agribusiness in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Tulare County houses the most mega-dairies of any CA county, and half of its water supplies are predicted to go dry this year.

“It’s beyond clear that voluntary cutbacks on household water usage won’t make a dent in impacts of this climate change driven drought across the state,” said Mark Schlosberg, Managing Director of Research and Litigation for Food & Water Watch. “If Governor Newsom is serious about dealing with this water crisis, his laissez-faire attitude towards the drought must stop. It’s time to address water-intensive and polluting industries like out-of-control corporate agriculture and oil extraction, while enforcing mandates to curb excessive water use in households.”

Eighty percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture, including heavy water users like almonds. In 2019, more than 60 percent of almonds produced in California were exported, rerouting 910 billion gallons of water out of the state for corporate profit. It takes 142 millions of gallons of water every day to operate California’s mega-dairies, enough to supply every person in San Diego and San Jose with their needed daily water.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Coalition To Truly Honor Chaco Delivers nearly 80K Comments to Bureau of Land Management

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – A coalition of environmental justice advocates, Indigenous grassroots organizations, and tribal community leaders rallied and delivered nearly 80,000 comments to the Bureau of Land Management demanding greater protections for the Greater Chaco Landscape and surrounding communities from expanded oil and gas activities. 

The rally coincided with the deadline to submit comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to stop new oil and gas leasing for a 20-year period on roughly 350,000 acres of land within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. While Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last year announced the “Honoring Chaco” initiative, a two-part process involving the withdrawal of federal minerals within 10 miles of Chaco Park and a new collaborative process to address the need for landscape-level management reforms, the program has yet to clearly define its goals and scope.

“There is a shrinking window of time for the President to cut off our dependence on fossil fuels and end oil and gas extraction,” said Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director, Food & Water Watch. “We can’t wait any longer for President Biden’s delays. We’re asking him to start keeping his promises to ban fracking and drilling on federal lands. We’re asking him to start by protecting Chaco Canyon.”

Today’s action underscores long-standing calls for landscape-level management outside of the 10-mile buffer that includes the cultural, social, economic and environmental concerns that have been raised and for the meaningful involvement of impacted communities and Tribal Nations to truly ‘Honor Chaco.’ If no further action is taken to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape from fossil fuel extraction and related development, the region will remain an “energy sacrifice zone.”

“The oil and gas industry has made a significant impact on our landscape, causing a lot of damage,” Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for Counselor Chapter and Vice President of the Board of Diné C.A.R.E. “Just last week, I noticed a new pipeline project going in. It was kicking dust up everywhere and destroying the land. The companies and the Bureau of Land Management never come to our Chapter to notify or ask our community about these projects. We find out after the ground is already being broken. Over 91% of available federal lands in the Farmington Field Office alone have already been leased for extraction. When are they going to stop?” 

“As a Dine woman, I personally harvest local plants to this day. How much longer will this sustenance last if the land continues to be mistreated and poisoned?” Asked Kendra Pinto, Four Corners Indigenous Community Field Advocate, Earthworks. “Throughout my childhood I have roamed these lands without fear for my future. Now, I must consider the risk of water contamination and air pollution poisoning my homelands. The decisions we make now will echo throughout the rest of my People’s time.”

The oil and gas industry’s stranglehold is strong in New Mexico, with the state receiving $1.1 billion last year from mineral leasing on federal lands — more than any other US state, directly undermining efforts needed to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade. New Mexico is the fastest-warming and most water-stressed state in the continental US, where wildfires have recently devoured over 120,000 acres.

“Here we are, yet again, delivering thousands of comments to the Bureau of Land Management calling for greater protections for the entire Greater Chaco Landscape,” Miya King-Flaherty, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “Those protections should include air and water quality, health and safety of surrounding communities, and analyzing, addressing and mitigating the cumulative impacts of oil and gas drilling. A mineral withdrawal is a step in the right direction, but more must be done to address the legacy impacts of more than 40,000 wells throughout the region that continue to harm communities, the environment and cultural integrity of the Greater Chaco Landscape.”

###

Media Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

LA City Council Committee Approves Hydrogen Hub Motion For Full Council Vote Against Blistering Public Opposition

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice and Rivers Committee (ECCJR) voted unanimously to send the Los Angeles “Hydrogen Hub” motion to a vote at the broader L.A. City Council. The motion that would kick-start the application process for federal funding from the Department of Energy that would create a “green” hydrogen hub in LA has met with fierce community and climate justice opposition. Only a few people were able to register their opposition during this special meeting, citing a lack of community involvement in the motion’s approval process and numerous environmental concerns.

Chief among the concerns flagged by environmental advocates is the potential for hydrogen blending, a process that mixes hydrogen with fossil pipeline gas, which increases harmful emissions when the mixture is burned at power plants or in people’s homes when used for cooking, heating and hot water.  Even “green” hydrogen produced by electrolysis used in this way would exacerbate issues of environmental injustice in hyper-polluted communities. Further concerns were raised about the production of green hydrogen, which requires 9 kg of water per every 1 kg of hydrogen produced, raising alarms in the middle of the worst drought the region has seen in 1,200 years.

“We hope L.A. City Councilmembers will heed the warnings of their constituents when this motion is voted on,” said Food & Water Watch Senior L.A. Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “Allowing LADWP to combine hydrogen with fossil gas at a sprawling Hydrogen Hub will increase harmful emissions and worsen the climate crisis, no matter what color you call the hydrogen. 

“The City Council is rushing through this proposal under the guise of clean energy, despite significant impacts it will have on disadvantaged communities. Most notably, this proposal will likely exacerbate the water crisis facing Southern California, where officials are already asking residents to ration water, as well as the potential to stall plans to shut down L.A.’s existing fleet of power plants. We already have proven energy solutions like solar, wind and battery storage to get L.A. to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. We can’t poison our communities and give up our scarce water resources for a scheme that could keep L.A. stuck on fossil fuels for decades to come.”

The motion will next go before the L.A. City Council for a full vote. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Senate Energy Committee Votes 8-1 to Pass Aliso Canyon Closure Bill to Appropriations

Categories

Climate and Energy

Sacramento, CA – In an 8 to 1 vote, the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee voted in favor of moving SB 1486, the Clean Energy Jobs, Coordination and Community Safety Through Aliso Canyon Closure Act. More than a dozen people testified supporting the bill in the hearing’s public comment period, citing climate and public health concerns. Only two public comments opposed the bill. California Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) introduced the bill in January with strong community support. The bill will go on to the Appropriations Committee.

The bill sets a firm 2027 timeline for the shutdown of SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility, site of the nation’s worst natural gas blowout, and establishes the facility as an asset of last resort until then. 

“Justice is on the way for those who have lived in the shadow of Aliso Canyon,” said Andrea Vega, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “The people are powering this fight, and today’s victory belongs to them. We will keep fighting for the passage of SB 1486 and the vision of a clean energy future for California where no one is left behind. Our climate can’t wait for the delayed timelines and half measures offered by profiteering fossil fuel companies, and neither can our communities.”

Seattle Climate Activists Rally Outside President Biden’s Earth Day Visit

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Seattle, WA — This morning, President Biden visited Seattle for an Earth Day event and signing of a new executive order to protect old growth forests. Dozens of climate activists were there to demand that the President reject fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. President Biden’s trip comes just one week after his administration opened up thousands of acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling, contradicting a specific pledge from the President’s campaign. Local activists present on Friday represented Food & Water Watch, 350 Seattle, Stand.earth and others from Build Back Fossil Free, a national coalition of over 1,100 groups pressuring the Biden Administration to declare a climate emergency and end the federal approval of new fossil fuel projects.  

The latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of severe consequences to human health, security, food and water supplies, and more should world leaders fail to quickly curtail the use of fossil fuels. 

“Fossil fuels are destroying our climate with direct impacts in our own backyard,” said Thomas Meyer, Seattle-based national organizing manager at Food & Water Watch. “On this Earth Day, President Biden can’t claim to be a climate leader just a week after his administration opened up more of our federal lands for fracking and drilling. This contradicts an explicit campaign promise and flies in the face of the latest UN climate report. President Biden has the power to meaningfully address the climate crisis by ending federal fossil fuel sales, rejecting permits for fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and declaring a national climate emergency to quickly expand the clean energy economy.” 

The Pacific Northwest has faced record heat waves, drought, and wildfires in recent years, impacts that climate scientists say will likely get worse in the near future unless drastic action is taken to reduce fossil fuel use. 

Activists held signs urging Biden to stop fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. A 15-foot banner read “C’mon man, the IPCC says it’s now or never: put an end to fossil fuels!” 

Link to photos and video here (credit Food & Water Watch).

###

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected], 202-683-2478

Ventura County Farmers Urge Passage of Measures A and B to Protect Water Resources

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Fillmore, CA – Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura County farming community joined advocates and water experts to urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was approved in 1928. 

“It’s terrifying,” King said. “As a member of the family that has owned and farmed this land for over a hundred years — and a family that is committed to maintaining the health and safety of the land, the water and the crops — it’s terrifying what could happen if our Fillmore aquifer gets contaminated by oil products.”

King and her husband supply avocados and citrus fruit to local markets and restaurants, also renting some of their land to The Abundant Table, a non-profit organic CSA and worker-owned collective. They recently learned that an abandoned oil well sits in the middle of their organic avocado field. 

“Over 654 active and idle oil wells in Ventura County are either located on top of groundwater basins or have been drilled through our groundwater basins,” said Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager Tomás Rebecchi, who also leads the VC-SAFE coalition to pass Measures A and B. “If [oil operators] want to drill or frack an oil well next to your home or school, they would have to do as little environmental review as building a gazebo or a deck in your own backyard. And in Ventura County, more than 60 percent of oil wells located next to homes are next to Latino and Latinx communities. This creates a disproportionate burden of pollution shouldered by communities of color. Measures A and B are common sense protections that make oil operators in Ventura County play by the same rules as the rest of California.”

Numerous health studies have linked living within a close proximity to oil wells with asthma, cancer and preterm births among other health issues. 

“The health of our people depends on our water supply,” said Carmen Ramirez, Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. “This precious source of life is threatened everywhere in the Southwest. Certainly in Ventura County we don’t have enough of it. When you care about people and health, that should win over other people’s profit motives. We have to protect our water. We have to protect our climate. We have to protect our beautiful agriculture.

“I’ll be out there knocking on doors, getting people to vote “yes” on Measures A and B,” Supervisor Ramirez added. Other elected officials who have endorsed Measures A and B include Rep. Julia Brownley, Senator Henry Stern, and Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava.

Pouring oil into a glass of water, geologist and member of Ventura’s Water Commission Nova Clite demonstrated how difficult it is to truly separate the two substances. “Most groundwater contamination is in the dissolved phase. You don’t taste it. You don’t even see it. You can be exposed to toxic chemicals and not even know it. So the best course is prevention.” 

The oil wells using these antiquated permits have no expiration date and no requirement for environmental review. If the ballot measures do not pass and the loopholes for the oil industry remain open, future oil drilling with these permits would not be subject to any other legislation limiting or regulating drilling (such as a ban on fracking or the institution of 3,200 foot buffer zones between community sites like schools and well operations).

“These loopholes risk the very fabric of the community we’ve built together and we can’t let that happen,” said Abundant Table board member Tom Nafziger

Guadalupe Rojas is the farm manager for The Abundant Table. Through a translator, he said, “We’re very close to the Santa Clara River here and it’s very important to keep our subterranean storage very clean for the water. A very tiny amount of oil can contaminate thousands of gallons of water. Another thing that’s very important to keep our soils free of petroleum and other contaminants is to keep oil wells far away from our farms.”

 “We want to make sure that we’re bringing the healthiest, most intact, unpolluted product to people to eat,” continued Cynthia King. “We don’t use herbicides or pesticides. So we’ll be voting yes on Measures A and B. The oil companies may have thousands of dollars, but we have thousands of people.”

See the full press conference here.

###

The VC-SAFE (Ventura County Save Agriculture and Drinking Water for Everyone) coalitionis composed of working families, farmers, and environmental justice groups banding together to protect our drinking water and demand safeguards for all future oil drilling.

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Senator Henry Stern And San Fernando Valley Residents Rally to Pass Aliso Canyon Closure Bill

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Chatsworth, CA – At a rally to kick off the campaign to pass SB 1486, Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) joined Food & Water Watch activists and San Fernando Valley residents at SoCalGas’ Chatsworth offices to demand the closure of the natural gas storage facility. The 2015 gas blowout that made Aliso Canyon’s name synonymous with disaster sickened thousands of residents, many of whom are still suffering health effects like cancer and asthma today. Despite this, the Public Utilities Commission voted to increase storage capacity at the Aliso Canyon facility in November 2021.

“I want this to be a nightmare of the past,” Senator Stern said. “This legislation is there to help the Public Utilities Commission who sometimes has a hard time doing the right thing on Aliso Canyon. It was a shame that the Public Utilities Commission decided to reopen this field last winter and to pretend that everything will go down unless this field is on. We know that’s not the case. We saw L.A. operate leaner but smarter and cleaner without Aliso Canyon. This could be done today and we would be fine. Do not let them scare you.”

Despite issuing a mandate to the CPUC to close Aliso down, Governor Gavin Newsom has taken no action to enforce that commitment even as the agency voted to increase storage capacity at the facility. The Clean Energy Jobs, Coordination and Community Safety Through Aliso Canyon Closure Act provides a firm roadmap to closing Aliso Canyon by 2027 — the first piece of legislation to do so. In another first for the site, the bill mandates protections and safeguards for workers who would be displaced from their jobs at Aliso Canyon and ensures their transition to clean energy work. SB1486 will stipulate that the facility cannot be used for hydrogen, biofuels or carbon capture. Stern stressed the importance of SoCalGas transforming itself from a gas company to a renewable energy company. 

“We’re here as a protest and also as an invitation,” Stern continued. “It’s a loud invitation.”

“We picked this location because every time we go up to the Aliso Canyon storage facility, we get sick,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “And we’re tired of putting our loved ones and friends in harm’s way. We have a lot of hurt and trauma that we’re working on overcoming, and this is not an issue of the past. It’s still ongoing. This is why we’re fighting. We’re on the tip of a huge paradigm shift. SB 1486 has the potential to lead California to climate action and the equitable transition away from natural gas. Senator Stern will not be alone in this fight.”

Nagy asked the crowd who had experienced health consequences or had to relocate because of the blowout. At least a dozen hands flew up. Aliso Moms Alliance member Deirdre Bolona lost her father to kidney cancer after the blowout. “We were told it was safe,” she said at the rally. “No one cares. Senator Stern cares.”

“We are in a climate crisis,” said Jane Fowler, a Granada Hills resident and member of Aliso Moms Alliance. “I wish everything was fine but it isn’t. I live near this horrible, dilapidated facility and I know what it’s like to breathe toxic air. We have dubbed our cough ‘the Aliso cough.’ We are living in the shadow of Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. We’ve been sounding the alarm for six and a half years. SB 1486 is the beginning. Senator Stern is making this all happen and he’s actually making it easy for Governor Newsom to sign off.”

Matt Pakucko, President and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, said “It’s a very clever bill. It disarms the opposition right off the bat by transitioning jobs in keeping with California and Los Angeles long term energy plans. And best of all is that it turns Aliso Canyon back into an asset of last resort — that protocol that kept Aliso unused and unneeded for nearly two years.”

The bill faces its first hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom Announces Gas Rebate, But Is Silent on Ending Oil and Gas Permits

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Governor Newsom announced a gas rebate offering Californians direct payments of $400 to ease economic strain caused by high gas prices, but noticeably absent from his statement was any concrete action to end California’s production of fossil fuels. 

“Rebates are helpful for consumers but are surely a bandaid for the short term,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “The only way to safeguard Californians from the profiteering of the oil industry is to stop issuing new permits and transition to renewables immediately. Governor Newsom has touted California’s trajectory towards an oil free future, but how can we get there if he dodges every opportunity to end new drilling permits?”

Recent research from Food & Water Watch shows that fossil fuel companies are not only profiting from the increases in gas prices, their executives are seeing a windfall in their personal wealth. 

“The real issue here is the fossil fuel industry’s profiteering and price gouging,” continued Nagy. “While Californians suffer the economic fallout of high gas prices and climate disasters associated with fossil fuel extraction, the executives of Chevron, ExxonMobil and other dirty energy companies watch their profits soar. The only way to bring lasting economic relief to Californians is for Governor Newsom to initiate a just transition away from fossil fuels immediately. We can no longer afford to bankroll the profits of the oil and gas industry.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Oil Giant Aera Energy Drops $5 Million To Fight Measures A And B 

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – Recently released campaign documents reveal oil giant Aera Energy, owned jointly by Exxon and Shell Oil, has spent $5 million to fight Measures A and B, two ballot initiatives that would eliminate loopholes which allow oil companies to drill in Ventura County with no modern environmental review. That could break the record for fossil fuel interest contributions to a referendum campaign in the county. 

In 2020, Aera Energy was among the fossil fuel interests who spent upwards of $1 million three days after the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate the antiquated permit loopholes for new drilling projects. The money bought enough signature gatherers to put the issue back on the ballot in the form of Measures A and B. Voting “yes” on Measures A and B will reinstate the protections against antiquated drill permits initially voted on by the Board of Supervisors. 

“This is just the beginning of a tsunami of money and misinformation Big Oil is going to flood Ventura County with,” said Tomás Morales Rebecchi, Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager and a VC-SAFE campaign leader. “But Aera Energy leaders are mistaken if they believe millions in misinformation will fool Ventura County voters into giving up protections for their water, farms and communities. We will not allow fossil fuel interest groups with massive warchests to dictate our future and subvert our democracy. More than 1,000 oil wells sit within half a mile of Ventura County homes, and 60 percent of those homes are located in communities of color. This is a grassroots fight for environmental justice, public health and a livable future. Aera Energy’s fight is for their bottom line and corporate greed.”

The VC-SAFE (Ventura County Save Agriculture and Freshwater for Everyone) coalition comprises environmental, social justice and public health advocates working to pass Measures A and B to protect Ventura’s aquifers, communities and farms from oil drilling using antiquated permits. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom’s “California Way” Fails on Climate and Drought

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – While Governor Gavin Newsom’s fourth State of the State address coincided with the worst drought California has seen in 1,200 years, he offered no concrete steps to tackle the drought or the primary driving force behind California’s warming climate: fossil fuel extraction. Newsom signaled a priority in “fighting polluters, not bolstering them,” but offered no plan or intentions to halt new oil and gas permits, something environmental advocates have urged as the most immediate way to fight climate change and preserve California’s scarce water resources.

The oil and gas industry swallows millions of gallons of freshwater annually that could otherwise go to households, but Newsom has delayed a phaseout of oil drilling in California until 2045, a date environmental and frontline community advocates decry as far too late to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The latest polling indicates fewer than a quarter of Californians believe Newsom is on track in dealing with the drought. The subject was not featured in the governor’s address. Meanwhile, the same poll shows a six point drop in his support among progressives over six months. 

“Governor Newsom’s climate and drought policies are deeply flawed and his State of the State address reflects that,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Every new oil and gas permit that Newsom’s administration grants is a step backward for California’s climate and communities and a missed opportunity to protect scarce freshwater resources.  If Newsom truly wants to take up the mantle of climate leadership, he needs to issue an immediate moratorium on oil and gas development. Without concrete steps to protect our climate and water, Newsom’s grand plans for California’s climate leadership are only empty words.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

“Green” Hydrogen Motion Introduced at LA City Council Despite Environmental and Justice Concerns

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – L.A. City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Mitch O’Farrell, and Joe Buscaino introduced a motion to authorize the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the L.A. Ports to apply for federal funding to make Los Angeles a regional “green” hydrogen hub. An initial draft of the motion shared with Food & Water Watch included guardrails to ensure hydrogen production would not perpetuate or support dirty energy systems like natural gas or factory farm gas, but these were stripped from the motion ahead of its introduction. 

Without these provisions, utilities could easily use hydrogen development to perpetuate and prop up fossil fuel power plants in Los Angeles that would otherwise retire with the transition to clean energy. This is a key flaw of any hydrogen development project. Burning hydrogen (whether in a power plant or people’s homes) can produce six times more nitrous oxides than burning methane. This harmful pollutant can cause respiratory illness and is a key pollutant in the formation of smog. LADWP has expressed interest in retrofitting the Haynes, Scattergood, Harbor and Valley natural gas plants to burn hydrogen gas despite fervent community concern that this will increase environmental pollution in overburdened communities.  

“Without important guardrails, even green hydrogen will be a smokescreen for fossil fuel development in the guise of clean energy,” Food & Water Watch Los Angeles Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas said in response to today’s motion. “Hydrogen is being used by fossil fuel interests to maintain their dangerous pipeline and energy infrastructure, propping up a system of dirty fossil fuels like fracked gas. Climate justice advocates have made it crystal clear that hydrogen does not belong at L.A.’s power plants and hydrogen with no safeguards against fossil fuel development or biofuels is unacceptable. This motion is a betrayal of Los Angeles communities who deserve equitable, accessible energy solutions and not costly, energy-intensive, water-intensive scams like this “green” hydrogen proposal.”

The motion also fails to address hydrogen’s intensive water usage in a drought identified as the worst in 1,200 years. “Green” hydrogen utilizes electrolysis to break water molecules apart, requiring 9 kg of water per every 1 kg of hydrogen produced. California is already a home for water-heavy industries, including factory farms, industrial agriculture and fossil fuel extraction, and the state’s water supply is dwindling. 

Investor-owned utility giant SoCalGas recently announced its intention to begin the “Angeles Link Project,” an initiative building out “green” hydrogen to power the Los Angeles Basin. SoCalGas has also promised to mix hydrogen with natural gas in its forthcoming H2 Hydrogen Home in Downey, drawing fierce criticism from environmental advocates who point to the move as another opportunity for the utility to expand gas infrastructure at Aliso Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Ventura. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Governor Lujan Grisham Seeks Federal Funding for Fossil Hydrogen Hubs

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement today announcing her intention to compete with Utah, Colorado and Wyoming for federal funding to go towards fossil hydrogen projects. The announcement follows widespread criticism among environmental, Indigenous and community organizations opposing the development of hydrogen. 96 percent of all hydrogen production in the U.S. is powered by fossil fuels. 

Producing fossil hydrogen releases 20 percent more carbon emissions than burning natural gas, and is even worse than burning coal for the climate. Hydrogen as well as the carbon capture occasionally used alongside it not only prop up the oil and gas industry, they could increase pollution near these facilities which are overwhelmingly located near communities of color and/or low-income areas.

Food & Water Watch Southern Organizing Director Jorge Aguilar released the following statement:

“Governor Lujan Grisham is grasping at straws to prop up a fossil hydrogen market that New Mexican communities neither want nor need. There is nothing clean about a fuel whose production can increase carbon emissions and pollution in disadvantaged communities, and that is why the governor’s efforts to pass a hydrogen hub bill in the legislature have failed. Seeking federal funds for a fossil hydrogen hub is a reckless kowtow to the fossil fuel interests driving New Mexico’s politics and holding the state back from a transition to truly clean, renewable energy accessible to all.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Grassroots Movement to Vote “Yes” on Measures A and B Kicks Off Campaign With Press Conference

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – A group of grassroots and community activists launched a campaign in favor of Measures A and B, two ballot measures that would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In some cases, these permits were granted as far back as the 1930s. As of July 2021, 75 percent of the 4,037 active and idle wells in Ventura County were using these antiquated permits that never expire. 

Community members have opposed these antiquated permits for years. In 2020, they won the protections they sought when the Ventura County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance closing the antiquated permit loophole and holding all new oil and gas drill operations to the same modern environmental standards as other industries. Three days after the vote, oil and gas interests — including Aera Energy — spent upwards of $1 million to undo the protections at the ballot. By January 2021, the committee had secured enough signatures to place the issue back on the ballot in the form of Measures A and B. 

Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager Tomás Rebecchi was one of the environmental advocates and Ventura residents leading the initial fight against the permit loophole. 

“In Ventura County, there are more than 1,000 wells that are within a half mile of residents’ homes,” said Rebecchi. “And 60 percent of those oil wells are in Latino communities like ours. This creates a disproportionate burden of pollution shouldered by low income communities and communities of color.  With these old permits, an oil company could drill or frack a well next to our homes with as little environmental review as building a gazebo or a shed.”

Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-37) served on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2020 and voted in favor of ending the use of antiquated permits.

“When I was elected to the Board of Supervisors back in 2000,” Bennett remembered. “I discovered a startling fact and that was the fact that back in the mid-century the oil companies used their tremendous influence…to win something that no other businesses were granted in Ventura County. And that was getting conditional use permits that were granted in perpetuity forever.”

Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie has worked in cultural resource management for 40 years and seen sacred sites subsumed by oil development. According to CEQA, developers are supposed to avoid sacred sites. 

“But you can’t avoid them if you don’t know where they are,” Tumamait-Stenslie said, referencing the antiquated permits and lack of regulations. “We have for our Chumash people a lot of knowledge that just has gone away from us, lost through that mission period. And so there are sacred mountains that have gone unrecognized…sacred sites, burials that have probably all been impacted and will be impacted because there is no oversight.”

With a price tag of approximately $6 per signature and hundreds of thousands of signatures required to land a measure on the ballot, corporate interests have secured a foothold on direct democracy in California. 

“The idea was to wrest power from the hands of the special interest groups that were dominating state politics in places like Sacramento,” said University of California at San Diego professor and Political Science Department Chair Thad Kousser. “Unfortunately, 100 years later we’ve all seen that direct democracy, like our representative government, is also vulnerable.  We have unequal access to the ballot right now. It’s no longer the people’s process.” 

“The idea of projects moving forward without rigorous requirements to explore, understand and avoid the worst consequences to the environment and communities ahead of time is simply not acceptable for any industry or company in this day and age,” said Hans Cole, Patagonia’s Director of Campaigns and Advocacy. “The state of California is a leader in enacting public policy that’s better for people, for water, for climate, for the planet. But we have a glaring loophole…in our ability to protect our environment right here in Ventura County.”

Ojai organic farmer Steve Sprinkel irrigates his crops from an aquifer maintained by surface water that percolates downward. “In the arid west, a drought should focus our attention on what is our primary need,” said Sprinkel. “Water is much more essential than oil. We can’t risk ruining our underground water resources for a short-term economic benefit. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Mexico Rejects Clean Fuels Standard Act And Promotion Of Factory Farm Gas 

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM –  The New Mexico legislature rejected the Clean Fuels Standard Act Thursday morning, which would have set up a market for factory farm gas, among other dirty fuels,  similar to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The California credit system allows factory farms like mega-dairies to sell the equivalent of fracked gas to be used as fuel for vehicles. New Mexico’s bill would have allowed factory farm gas to count towards the state’s “clean fuels” goal. The only farms capable of producing as much manure as is necessary to generate factory farm gas are massive in scale and a major source of greenhouse gas in New Mexico as well as the rest of the U.S. The average New Mexico mega-dairy confines more than 3,000 cows. This represents some of the largest herds in the country.

“New Mexico needs real climate solutions and not scams that only truly benefit the factory farming and fossil fuel industries,” said Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar. “We’re hopeful that any future attempts to address the legitimate problems with emissions in transportation will protect communities from the factory farm expansion that would undoubtedly follow any clean fuel standard that allows biogas. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico legislature must pursue real solutions that slash methane emissions and protect communities from the pollution of industrial agriculture.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

SoCalGas Jumpstarts “Green” Hydrogen Plan Despite Massive Water Use

Categories

Climate and EnergyClean Water

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – Today SoCalGas applied to the California Public Utilities Commission for a memo account to track expenses for the “Angeles Link Project,” an initiative building out “green” hydrogen to power the Los Angeles Basin. “Green” hydrogen utilizes electrolysis to break water molecules apart. However, environmental advocates have identified the key flaws of any hydrogen development, including the possible perpetuation of fossil fuel infrastructure and the enormous amount of water required for such a process. 

“Green” hydrogen requires 9 kg of water per every 1 kg of hydrogen produced. California is already a home for water-heavy industries, including factory farms, industrial agriculture and fossil fuel extraction, yet the state’s water supply is dwindling. Recent studies place the Western drought of the last two decades as the worst in 1,200 years.

Meanwhile, SoCalGas faces criticism for misuse of ratepayer funds as well as hiking the price of gas by more than 50 percent even as its revenue rose significantly during the pandemic. 

“Californians are not blind to SoCalGas’ profiteering,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Time and again SoCalGas has shown a willingness to destroy our climate and health while jacking up rates to make profit by any means necessary. We would be foolish to let SoCalGas sell us on schemes like green hydrogen that divert us from real energy solutions and hijack our water resources. We need to break up monopoly utilities like SoCalGas and put real clean energy solutions in the hands of communities and workers that will lead us to the future, not down a darker path that fattens SoCalGas profits while doing nothing to address the real problems.” 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Analysis Shows California Investor Owned Gas Utilities Hiked Pandemic Rates Even As Their Revenue Rose 

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – According to new analysis by environmental watchdog Food & Water Watch, between 2019 and 2021 California investor-owned gas utilities like SoCalGas were charging customers 53.9 percent more for gas even as their companies saw revenue rise. SoCalGas, PG&E, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company all saw revenue increases in 2020 compared to 2019 (the year before the pandemic hit). 

Between 2019 and 2020, SoCalGas saw revenue rise from $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion. When 2021 numbers are released, the company is expected to come close to $5 billion. While fourth quarter revenue has not been disclosed yet, both SoCalGas and San Diego are on track to meet or exceed their 2020 revenue in 2021. 

SoCalGas is currently facing $10 million in state-sanctioned fines for using customer money to lobby against climate change solutions. 

“SoCalGas cannot be trusted to protect its ratepayers or the communities threatened by the buildout of toxic gas infrastructure,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “While SoCalGas’ revenue rose, the company charged customers exponentially higher rates during the pandemic. This is a utility whose record includes the disastrous blowout at Aliso Canyon, myriad methane leaks, and improper use of ratepayer funds. Communities across California deserve equitable access to clean energy. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health or savings to pad SoCalGas’ bottom line.”

“We’ve known that SoCalGas will sacrifice communities for profit,” said Liz Campos, member of the Westside Clean Air Coalition and Chair of the Westside Community Council. “We didn’t know that while our neighborhood was being poisoned our rates were skyrocketing not because of inflation but because SoCalGas wanted to increase their profits. This company is emboldened by greed and unmoved by human suffering. We demand that Governor Newsom send SoCalGas a message and shut down the toxic infrastructure in Aliso Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Ventura that is threatening our communities.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Ventura County Ballot Includes Measures A, B For Consistent Oil Drilling Permit Environmental Requirements 

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – Ventura County announced that consistent environmental requirements for oil and gas drilling would return to the ballot this year in the form of measures A and B. Both measures would eliminate the use of “antiquated” permits in Ventura County. In some cases, these permits are nearly one hundred years old. They never expire and do not require environmental review as mandated by modern permits. 

Such protections had been in effect after a Ventura County Board of Supervisors vote that required consistent permitting for all oil and gas wells. Immediately after it was passed, the oil industry spent nearly one million dollars to overturn Ventura County’s decision by paying signature gathers to qualify a referendum. This paused the newly won protections and sent it to the June 7th ballot to be voted on.

In response to the ballot measure announcement, Food & Water Watch Central Coast Organizing Manager and a VC-SAFE campaign leader Tomás Morales Rebecchi issued the following statement:

“For too long the oil and gas industry has used antiquated permits as loopholes to drill wherever they want with no environmental review, even on top of our precious groundwater resources or right next to our homes. Measures A and B will solidify the protections already approved by our Board of Supervisors in 2020. Once again the fossil fuel industry is fighting these protections because of their bottom line, but California’s direct democracy is meant to empower citizens and not corporate interests who prioritize profit over people. Ventura County must vote yes on Measures A and B to ensure consistent permitting for the oil and gas industry and the basic environmental regulations to protect public health.”

Led by grassroots groups, community members and environmental nonprofits, the VC-SAFE (Ventura County Save Agriculture and Freshwater for Everyone) coalition will officially launch a campaign in support of Measures A and B on February 17.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Research: Mega-Dairies Contribute to New Mexico’s Drought and Contaminate Groundwater

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – In a new paper, Food & Water Watch researchers found that New Mexico’s large dairies are fueling  the state’s widespread drought crisis through excessive water usage and contamination of drinking water sources. The paper estimates that every day, the mega-dairy industry uses a colossal 32 million gallons of water to operate, and generates over 8 million gallons of wastewater that jeopardizes underground aquifers, even as the state struggles with limited groundwater supply.  Read the full report here.

“Not only do New Mexico’s mega-dairies deplete the scarce water supplies on which New Mexicans rely, they also contaminate the water adjacent to their facilities,” said Food & Water Watch’s Southern Organizing Director Jorge Aguilar. “New Mexico’s water resources should benefit its people, not corporate interests. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham must protect her constituents’ right to water and direct the Office of the State Engineer and the New Mexico Environment Department to hold this industry accountable for its destructive impact on the water supply.. ”

New Mexico currently has the worst drought outlook of any state in the U.S., and the recent resignation of State Engineer and top water official John D’Antonio has focused attention on the state’s ability to address the drought crisis. D’Antonio cited frustration with a chronic lack of funding to protect water resources as the reason for his departure. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has since called for an overhaul of New Mexico’s water policy and stressed the need “to rewrite what the state engineer’s office looks like.” 

The paper’s findings also underscore the heightened risk of nitrate contamination mega-dairies pose to New Mexico’s freshwater drinking supplies.  

A few key findings of the paper:

  • 80 percent of New Mexico’s mega-dairies have only half the land needed to properly absorb the manure produced by the cows. The excess nutrients can contaminate drinking water sources in New Mexico.
  • According to the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) map of mega-dairies, most if not all are situated on “high sensitivity” aquifers. NMED has acknowledged that leaching from mega-dairies could contaminate groundwater sources. 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Unanimously Approves Resolution Calling For SoCalGas Compressor Station’s Removal

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – In a unanimous vote, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution calling for a health and community impact assessment of SoCalGas’ 1555 N. Olive Street compressor station with the goal of removing the facility from its current location across the street from the E.P. Foster Elementary School. 

Since August 2021, work has been paused on the compressor station per the request of the California Public Utilities Commission to allow for the completion of an alternatives analysis by SoCalGas. Despite public outcry and a directive from the Ventura City Council for an independent Environmental Impact Review (EIR), no additional analysis has taken place. The Board’s resolution reiterates support for that review and calls on the California Environmental Protection Agency to perform an independent study which would include neighborhood compatibility and health needs assessments. The end goal would be the compressor station’s relocation.

Among other concerns, the Board cited “the current site’s close proximity to numerous sensitive populations and the risks historically associated with gas compressor sites including…ruptures, leaks and explosions.” Approximately 500 people live within a quarter mile of the facility, but as many as 4,750 live within a half mile radius — close enough to be impacted by a gas explosion. 

The Westside Clean Air Coalition (WCAC) has opposed the expansion of the gas compressor station and advocated for an EIR to address the myriad health and environmental impacts of the project. Members of WCAC released the following statements in response to the vote:

“The Board of Supervisors has listened to the community of West Ventura,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Central Coast Organizer Tomás Morales Rebecchi. “It’s time for Governor Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission to do the same. After one year of tireless local advocacy and outreach, there can be no doubt that SoCalGas’ compressor station is neither wanted nor needed in this community. A health study is not enough. Governor Newsom must shut this facility down. There’s no other way to protect our children and families from the dangers of gas infrastructure.”

“While we live in a divisive time, one thing from the meeting is clear,” said Westside Community Council President Liz Campos. “We all say we care about the children. I applaud our county supervisors today for taking a decisive action to protect West Ventura’s children from excessive exposure to toxic gases. No gas compressor and no toxic industry belongs less than a football field length from a school playground.”

From Shannon Simpson, Executive Director of Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG): “By adopting the resolution Supervisor Matt LaVere put forward today, Ventura County Supervisors are standing up for the health and safety of this community by requesting action from state agencies and sending a strong message that the quality of life of those who work, live, and go to school in the vicinity of the SoCal Gas compressor station matters. Additionally, as California moves forward with phasing out fossil fuels and Ventura County works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 41 percent below 2015 levels by 2030, all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure should be critically evaluated – as it relates to safety, health, and the climate crisis. We strongly urge the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to continue to monitor this issue and advocate for relocation of this facility.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

California Rejects Petition to Drop Factory Farm Gas From Energy Credit System

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Richard Corey unilaterally rejected a petition request from a coalition of environmental justice, animal protection, and community groups to immediately initiate a rulemaking to eliminate credits for factory farm gas from one of California’s premier climate programs, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The decision ignores ample evidence that the lucrative credit system is dramatically overstating the climate benefit of using methane sourced from factory farms as a transportation fuel, and illegally disregards the disproportionate environmental and health impacts that dairy digesters inflict on low-income communities and communities of color.

Advocates suggest that instead of investing millions in a credit system that incentivizes factory farm expansion and the use of more polluting manure management practices, California should instead use its climate dollars to invest in renewable energy solutions that cut pollution in environmental justice communities. 

Members of the coalition released the following statements:

“Governor Newsom and CARB have rejected this opportunity to stop California’s flagship climate program from incentivizing and entrenching the factory farm industry and the hosts of harms that come along with it. CARB’s decision to keep factory farm gas in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and kick the can down the road ensures that the program will remain fundamentally compromised and California will fall further behind its climate goals.” said Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell.

“The California Air Resources Board’s decision to delay the rulemaking our petition asks for represents a failure to meet its environmental justice commitments. The continued development of factory farm gas schemes will only serve to entrench a system that illegally and disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color,” said Brent Newell, Senior Attorney at the Public Justice Food Project.

“Some of the largest and most polluting dairy operations in California may already be making more money from factory farm gas than they do from milk. This manure gold rush incentivizes factory farm expansion, which increases air and water pollution — not to mention increased odor and flies — in environmental justice communities, all while failing to address the impacts of climate-warming methane emissions. It’s extremely disappointing that California regulators have decided not to address with adequate urgency the significant deficiencies and injustices inherent in this particular pollution subsidy, as petitioners requested,” said Phoebe Seaton, co-executive director with Leadership Counsel. 

“Incentivizing factory farming and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) — and rewarding the industry for the mass amounts of pollution it causes — is a dangerous position for The California Air Resources Board to take. It is vital that government agencies work toward solutions to the climate crisis — not exacerbate it,” said Cristina Stella, Managing Attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

###
Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

L.A. County Seeks Researchers For Aliso Canyon Disaster Public Health Study

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA — Nearly seven years after the Aliso Canyon SoCalGas blowout, L.A. County is beginning to ask for research proposals for a comprehensive study into the disaster’s ongoing public health impacts. For the past two and half years, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) composed of San Fernando Valley residents and stakeholders has stressed the vital importance of a study that assesses the holistic effects of the gas blowout on individuals in the community as well as its long term impact on health.

In response, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy issued the following statement:

“The fact that San Fernando Valley communities have had to wait seven years for this research process to be initiated is a serious failure of political will among California’s public health and elected leaders. And while the SoCalGas storage facility is still operating — and expanding — it’s easy to understand a lack of trust in the public health department. We welcome the completion of the study as long it remains centered on clinical evaluations of the residents. But there is much more work to be done before San Fernando Valley residents are truly protected. Governor Newsom must shut down Aliso Canyon once and for all.”

The explosion of SoCalGas’ storage facility at Aliso Canyon caused the release of more than 109,000 metric tons of methane and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities. It is the worst natural gas blowout in the history of the U.S. Despite this and the facility’s frequent and ongoing fugitive emissions, the California Public Utilities Commission voted in November 2021 to expand the facility’s use over community and environmental outcry.

Environmental and community advocates have expressed concern that the request for a proposal bases its estimated environmental impact on flawed air monitoring data by the California Council on Science and Technology.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Oregon Mega-Dairy Digester Received California Green Energy Credits As It Violated Air Quality Law

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Food & Water Watch has submitted a complaint to California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) asking it to invalidate the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits Oregon’s Threemile Canyon Farms’ factory farm “biogas” operations generated while its gas production facilities were violating Oregon air quality law. The complaint urges CARB to initiate an enforcement action, invalidate all of Threemile Canyon Farms’ unlawfully generated credits, and revoke Threemile’s credit account so it can no longer bank or sell LCFS credits. California’s LCFS is a program whose lucrative credit system allows factory farms to sell factory farm gas derived from manure. 

According to Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, Threemile Canyon violated its air quality permit for several periods between June 1, 2019 through at least September 30, 2020, releasing illegal amounts of fine particulate matter pollution, which contributes to numerous human health problems. DEQ fined Threemile Canyon $19,500 for those air quality violations. Threemile was violating its permit while it applied for the LCFS program, and when it assured CARB that it was operating in compliance with environmental laws. 

“Anything less than a complete revocation of Threemile Canyon Farms’ credits and account within the LCFS system is unacceptable,” said Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell. “Even as CARB was reviewing and certifying Threemile’s application for California’s LCFS program, the facility’s gas refinery was responsible for unlawful pollution that threatens Oregon’s climate and nearby communities. Under these circumstances, CARB should never have granted Threemile’s LCFS application. But the agency has the opportunity and obligation to correct that error now.”

Food & Water Watch is awaiting CARB’s response to a petition we recently submitted with other environmental, public health and social justice organizations, asking CARB to remove factory farm biogas from California’s LCFS program entirely. The agency is legally bound to respond to the petition by the end of the month.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom Budget Falls Short on Confronting Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2022-’23 budget today, including a $45.7 billion budget surplus. Newsom claimed that combating the climate crisis was second only to fighting COVID-19 on his list of priorities. However, the governor’s proposals lacked clear pathways towards ending fossil fuel proliferation and extraction, instead promoting factory farming and fossil fuel technology like factory farm biogas, carbon capture and “green” hydrogen.

In response, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy issued the following statement:

“Newsom’s proposed budget fails. It lacks a comprehensive investment plan for ending fossil fuels and factory farms, two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Newsom includes funds for technologies that prop up these industries, like green hydrogen, factory farm manure digesters and carbon capture. Too many Californians lack access to fresh water and suffer from climate change induced disasters like wildfires. Newsom has allocated $2.7 billion for wildfire mitigation and $6 billion for drought support, but he neglects the root cause of these disasters: climate change hastened by fossil fuel emissions.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Biden’s Temporary Chaco Canyon Protections Highlight Need For Permanent End to Drilling on Federal Lands

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Today, the Bureau of Land Management announced the withdrawal of 351,000 acres of land over the next 20 years within a 10-mile radius around the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. The land will be removed from leasing sales for a period up to two years while the Department of the Interior evaluates the withdrawal application. 

President Biden promised to end fracking on public lands during his 2020 campaign, but instead has continued the approval of leases for oil and gas exploration across the U.S., including a massive sale of new leases off the  Gulf Coast

The Indigenous-led Greater Chaco Coalition criticized today’s announcement for failing to provide a long-term solution that protects the health and cultural sites of New Mexico’s Chaco community.

Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh released the following statement:

“President Biden’s actions showcase yet again his failure to fulfill his campaign promise to ban fracking on public lands. Initiating the withdrawal of federal mineral and fossil fuel extraction around Chaco Canyon is a promising but ultimately inadequate step. Until the Biden administration ends fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and cuts Big Oil’s stranglehold on our energy future, New Mexico will serve as one more reminder of Biden’s failure to protect the country’s climate and communities from profiteering corporations.”

New Mexico is the nation’s second largest oil producer and a potential new hub for fossil hydrogen, an energy source opposed by environmental advocates that locks in fossil fuel extraction and production.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Unprecedented Water Restrictions Point to Urgency of Ending Corporate Water Abuse

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration announced a 0% water allocation from the State Water Project for California districts in 2022 – the only exceptions being select health and safety allocations. The announcement comes after Food & Water Watch along with dozens of other environmental, public health and justice advocacy organizations sent a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to end corporate abuse of water from industrial factory farms, fossil fuels and bottled water companies. 

“The Newsom administration’s announcement serves as a potent reminder of how dire this drought is and the need for immediate action to preserve the water we have for the people who need it most,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy in response to the announcement. “Conservation measures are necessary, but so is a reevaluation of our water allocation system. Instead of mining our already scarce groundwater, we must accelerate groundwater sustainability plans and cut off water supplies to chronic corporate abusers like fossil fuel interests, industrial agriculture and bottled water companies. The freshwater used by the oil and gas industry alone could provide billions of gallons of water to homes in need. Water is a human right. It’s time California acted like it.”

New research compiled by Food & Water Watch around the state’s biggest water abusers reveals the oil and gas industry used more than 3 billion gallons of freshwater between January 2018 and March 2021 that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems. Likewise, 80 percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture, including heavy water users like almonds. In 2019, more than 60 percent of almonds produced in California were exported, rerouting 910 billion gallons of water out of the state for corporate profit. Additionally, alfalfa uses a huge share of California’s agricultural water at 16 percent and occupies 1 million irrigated acres in the state. More than 1.5 trillion gallons of water are needed for alfalfa irrigation or more than enough water to provide the daily recommended water needs (55 gallons per person per day) for every Californian for over a year. 

Groundwater accounts for 30 percent of water used by California agriculture in wet years, and in dry years groundwater accounts for a staggering 80 percent.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Backed By New Research, Environmental Groups Demand End to Corporate Water Abuse

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – 48 organizations have signed on to a letter demanding Governor Newsom address California’s water crisis with specific actions targeted at the corporate abuse of public water resources. While drought ravages the state and freshwater supplies dwindle, more than 1 million Californians lack access to clean drinking water. Wells in dry and under-resourced areas like the Central Valley are predicted to go dry at astonishing rates. Yet unsustainable amounts of California’s water are being allocated to multibillion dollar industries like fossil fuel production, industrial dairy operation and almond crop cultivation. Read the letter HERE.

“California’s antiquated water policies favor the corporations that contribute to the climate crisis and drain our water supplies,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “We can no longer afford to distribute water based on wealth and prioritize corporations over people. It is unthinkable that serial water abusers like Big Ag and Big Oil can reap billions of dollars in profits while thousands of wells around California go dry and our environment deteriorates. Already one million Californians lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Governor Newsom has taken steps to guard frontline communities against the predatory incursion of oil and gas drilling. Now he must begin prioritizing the water security of those same communities.”

The letter draws on its demands from new research by Food & Water Watch that highlights a water system designed to favor corporations over people. Among the paper’s findings are:

  • 80 percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture, including heavy water users like almonds. In 2019, more than 60 percent of almonds produced in California were exported, rerouting 910 billion gallons of water out of the state for corporate profit.
  • It takes 142 millions of gallons of water every day to operate California’s mega-dairies. That’s more than enough to supply every resident in San Diego and San Jose with the daily recommended amount of water. 
  • Between January 2018 and March 2021, the oil and gas industry used more than 3 billion gallons of freshwater — enough water to fill 4,570 Olympic-sized swimming pools — that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems. 

Among the letter’s chief demands for Governor Newsom:

  • Declare using groundwater to grow almonds and alfalfa in the southwest San Joaquin Valley not a beneficial use. 
  • Ban new and expanding mega-dairies in the state. 
  • End new oil and gas permitting immediately.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Frontline Communities March in Sacramento to Demand Newsom Stop SoCalGas Expansion

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Two years after Governor Gavin Newsom urged his Public Utilities to Commission to expedite the closure of SoCalGas’ storage facility at Aliso Canyon, environmental advocates joined frontline community members for a march and sit-in at the governor’s Sacramento office protesting the facility’s expansion and urged Newsom to close Aliso Canyon with an Executive Order. At issue are other SoCalGas infrastructure projects steadily allowed to expand into neighborhoods by the Public Utilities Commission with Newsom’s tacit approval, including Playa Del Rey and Ventura. 

In the nearly three years since Newsom’s election, Sempra, parent company of SoCalGas, has already spent $115,823 lobbying the Public Utilities Commission — nearly 20 percent of what it spent over the eight years of Governor Brown’s tenure to influence the PUC. This year alone, the company spent more than $1 million lobbying legislators and agencies. Protestors marched from the Capitol to the Public Utilities Commission offices, where they symbolically “cleaned” the building, freeing it from undue influence from SoCalGas.

“Governor Newsom and his Public Utilities Commission have allowed SoCalGas free rein over frontline communities for far too long,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “No neighborhood is a sacrifice zone. And yet Porter Ranch, Playa Del Rey and Ventura have paid the price of fossil fuel development with their health and safety. Unless Governor Newsom directs the PUC to reverse course and halt the rampant expansion of this toxic infrastructure beginning with Aliso Canyon, California will never live up to its climate or environmental justice ambitions. Governor Newsom needs to use his authority and direct the immediate shut down of Aliso Canyon with an Executive Order.”

In Ventura, the PUC has all but greenlighted SoCalGas’ proposal to expand a compressor station 500 feet away from the E.P. Foster Elementary School and a Boys & Girls Club. Ventura residents have sent more than 280 emails and held three rallies in opposition to the project. Yet no Environmental Impact Report has been commissioned to ascertain the true impact of this facility’s expansion on the surrounding community which has suffered from decades of environmental racism.

“The Public Utilities Commission has let the West Ventura community down,” said Tomás Morales Rebecchi, Ventura resident and Central Coast Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “But the ultimate responsibility to protect the health and safety of Californians is Governor Newsom’s. We’re asking him to hold SoCalGas accountable for the sickness their infrastructure has caused and the danger it poses to our children every day. As Governor Newsom himself has said, fossil fuels have no place in our future. Neither does environmental racism. It’s time for Newsom to stop the expansion of gas infrastructure in neighborhoods like Ventura, Porter Ranch and Playa Del Rey.”

Faith Myhra spoke on behalf of Protect Playa Now: “SoCalGas has had 68 years to do right by our communities and they have proven they are not capable of being good neighbors. Since 2003, we have experienced toxic oily “mist,” a vent stack explosion and an oil well blowing open. It is time for Governor Newsom to act like a real climate leader and close these dangerous facilities down, stop any expansions, and hold the CPUC accountable to Californians whom they are supposed to protect.”

Jane Fowler with Aliso Moms Alliance survived the 2015 gas blowout and suffered health impacts like hair loss, brain fog, nausea, fatigue, etc. “Our health is still being impacted with these leaks that continue to this day,” she said. “I urge everyone to fight like hell to not let SoCalGas expand anywhere. Because once it’s here we’re stuck with it for years. Left to their own devices, SoCalGas will be the voice that is heard by our representatives. Our voices will not be heard unless we all stand up and fight.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Ventura Residents Demand Newsom and EPA Stop SoCalGas

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA – Ventura residents are appealing to Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan to prevent SoCalGas from expanding a natural gas compressor that’s footsteps away from an elementary school and Boys & Girls Club.

A coalition of community members, nonprofit organizations, and businesses — known collectively as the Westside Clean Air Coalition — are concerned about the environmental impacts of SoCalGas’ proposal to expand the Ventura Compressor Station, a natural gas compressor station at 1555 N. Olive St. in Ventura, CA. The site is directly across from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura’s Robert Addison Center and the E.P. Foster Elementary School, and less than a block away from the West Ventura neighborhood — home to approximately 13,000 people.  

The proposed gas expansion project raises significant environmental justice issues for the residents of Ventura. The smell of fumes is a regular occurrence in the West Ventura neighborhood. Compressors and pipelines are prone to ruptures, leaks and explosions. This site is a prime example of why oil and gas infrastructure should be included in Governor Newsom’s draft 3,200-foot setback rule which currently only applies to oil and gas drill sites. 

Ventura residents have sent more than 280 emails and held three rallies in opposition to the project. Yet the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District has thus far refused to review the environmental impacts on the surrounding community under the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a letter sent to the Governor’s office, the coalition urges Newsom to remind the Air District as well as the California Public Utilities Commission of their responsibility and authority to intervene, requiring an Environmental Impact Report before any further work can be performed on the compressor expansion.

In a similar letter, the coalition is asking EPA Administrator Regan to demand relevant permitting agencies conduct robust health and environmental assessments.

“Governor Newsom has taken promising steps to protect communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel drilling, but he must break his silence on the equally catastrophic impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure on nearby neighborhoods,” said Tomás Rebecchi, Food & Water Watch Senior Central Coast Organizer. “We appeal to him now to follow through on his commitment to protect communities facing environmental racism and injustice. The Public Utilities Commission allowed the unnecessary expansion of SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility. We cannot allow the unnecessary expansion of its Ventura Compressor.”

“Science draws a clear connection between the planet’s warming and fossil fuel industry activity,” said Shannon Simpson, Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas Executive Director. “Governor Newsom and the Environmental Protection Agency must consider the facts and demand that SoCalGas’ proposed expansion of their Ventura facility be properly reviewed to fully understand its effects on our environment and the densely populated Westside neighborhood. Earth and the frontline community cannot risk experiencing further harm from the greenhouse gas super emitter station.”

“Having this infrastructure here is an environmental injustice to the people who live nearby,” said Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, the Ventura-based outdoor clothing company that is part of the Westside Clean Air Coalition. “Not only is expanding a gas compressor across from an elementary school to pump more fuel through the region dangerous, it’s unnecessary and counter to California’s efforts to find solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Read the letter to Gov Newsom here.

Read the letter to the EPA here.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom’s Failure to End Fossil Fuel Permits Results in California’s Second Tier Membership in BOGA

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — California took its place today as a second-tier associate member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a network of states and sub-nations committed to ending the expansion of fossil fuel production. California is ineligible for first-tier membership because Governor Newsom has yet to ban new oil and gas drilling permits. 

In response to the announcement, Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy released this statement:

“Rather than exemplifying a holistic approach to climate action, California’s admittance to BOGA as an associate member highlights what prevented it from joining as a first tier member: Governor Newsom’s failure to stop new oil and gas permitting. Vital as Governor Newsom’s actions like banning new oil wells within 3,200 feet of communities are, his pattern of slow progress is not enough to stop global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nor is it enough to secure Governor Newsom’s place as a climate leader with the rest of BOGA’s first tier members. That path begins with ending all fossil fuel permits and that is what we urge Governor Newsom to do.” 

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

In Defiance of Governor’s Mandate, CPUC Votes to Increase Gas Storage at Aliso Canyon

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – In defiance of demands from frontline community members, environmental and public health advocates, and state and local legislators, the California Public Utilities Commission voted “yes” today on an industry-backed proposal to increase the gas storage capacity at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon natural gas facility. The proposal raises the storage capacity limit to 60% percent allowable capacity at 41.6 Bcf. The commissioners voted unanimously to increase storage despite 62 public comments from public health advocates, residents and environmental activists to shut the facility down. Among those calling for the increase were the Indicated Shippers, a group of oil companies including California Resources Corporation, Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro.


“The Public Utilities Commission voted today in favor of fossil fuel interests, not the wellbeing of California ratepayers,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Allowing any increase in storage capacity at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility is not only dangerous, it is needless. SoCalGas and its shareholders are the only ones who profit from this disastrous glut of natural gas in the backyard of their ratepayers. Governor Newsom has instituted setbacks to protect frontline communities from oil and gas drilling. But where is the protection for communities in the shadow of gas infrastructure like Aliso Canyon? Governor Newsom has made it clear that Aliso Canyon should be shut down. Now he must follow his mandate with action and ensure the CPUC closes this facility once and for all.”

In 2019, Governor Newsom directed the CPUC to expedite the closure of Aliso Canyon. In the interim, the L.A. City Council as well as the L.A. Board of Supervisors have also voted in favor of shutting the facility down immediately. The most recent legislators to call for the closure of SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility are Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Alex Padilla (D).

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

How A California Climate Program Rewards Mega-Polluting Factory Farms Nationwide

Categories

Food System

by Jessica Gable

As California Governor Gavin Newsom gets ready to join world leaders for the United Nations’ climate summit in Glasgow and trumpet his state’s bold climate action, transition to a just economy, and protection of frontline communities, one stark omission from the governor’s climate platform is troubling. California’s air pollution regulator is pinning many of its climate ambitions on a program it claims reduces emissions in the transportation sector. But what it actually does is facilitate the growth of an industry whose significant climate-wrecking emissions are on the rise in the U.S. — factory farms.

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) incentivizes the production of biogas derived from animal manure and slaughterhouse waste.

Here’s how it works:

Waste is put into a digester either on or off the facility, where anaerobic bacteria break down the waste, producing methane and digestate that then must be disposed of. Once the biogas is treated to produce pipeline-quality methane chemically identical to fracked natural gas, factory farms sell and transport it via fossil fuel pipelines, ready for use in the transportation industry. Companies with fuels that are deemed higher “carbon intensity” can offset their emissions by buying the factory farm biogas credits, allowing them to continue polluting while Big Ag operations profit.

Promoting factory farm biogas means rewarding and entrenching the factory farm industry — hardly a solution for the climate crisis, and a disaster for environmental justice communities in California and across the country. That’s why Food & Water Watch has joined a coalition of organizations in petitioning the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to exclude factory farm-sourced biogas from its LCFS credit program. 

Factory Farms Accelerate Climate Change And Incentivizing Biogas Only Makes it Worse

Our petition makes it clear that the current LCFS credit system not only overstates the emission reduction benefits of factory farm-sourced biogas, it also allows for “double dipping” by factory farms as they use public dollars to subsidize digester construction while receiving millions for the credits they’ve sold. While gas industry reps sell this process to the public as a market-driven emission mitigation measure, it’s better described as a false climate solution that perpetuates air and groundwater pollution, and a financial shell game that enriches corporate shareholders at taxpayers’ expense. 

After the methane has been extracted from manure, factory farm operators are left with huge quantities of waste that must be disposed of. The usual method is to spread the manure over fields as fertilizer, where runoff and leaching frequently contaminate waterways and groundwater.  Land disposal of so-called digestate poses an even higher risk of groundwater contamination than undigested manure, as nitrates and phosphorus in digestate are more water-soluble and susceptible to contaminating water resources. In California, most communities living near these facilities are communities of color. They are the ones hit first and hardest by the pollution of factory farms. Our petition asserts that CARB’s current program violates state law and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit the agency from adopting policies that cause disparate harms on the basis of race. 

We Need to Get Rid of Biogas in The LCFS And Stop Funding Climate-Wrecking Emissions

Communities in California and across the U.S. will continue to bear the public health burden of factory farms as long as factory farm biogas is included in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. 

LCFS biogas credits spell disaster for our climate, water and communities — and everyone needs to know.

Spread the word to protect your community.

Sen. Henry Stern, Environmentalists and Aliso Canyon Survivors Hold Press Conference to Mark Sixth Anniversary of Blowout

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – At a press conference marking the sixth anniversary of the worst natural gas blowout in U.S. history at Aliso Canyon’s SoCalGas facility, Senator Henry Stern (D-27) joined survivors and environmentalists to oppose a proposed expansion of the site’s natural gas storage capacity currently being considered the California Public Utilities Commission. Up for consideration are two separate proposals: one would increase the storage capacity limit to 80 percent full at 68.6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) and the other would set the limit at 47 percent at 41.6 Bcf. In 2019, Governor Newsom directed the CPUC to expedite the closure of Aliso Canyon. In the interim, the L.A. City Council as well as the L.A. Board of Supervisors have also voted in favor of shutting the facility down immediately. 

At the end of September, SoCalGas proposed a settlement payout of $1.8 billion to the 36,000 plaintiffs involved in litigation against the company related to the blowout, but denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s good news for the victims of the tragedy but the risk remains,” said Senator Henry Stern (D-27). “But to assume that that’s the end of the problem is a big mistake. It’s not just for the people of the North Valley, it’s for the entire state of California and the future of climate policy. This CPUC decision will just be one more test of our will to actually shut Aliso Canyon down. I don’t want to see the public utility commissioners further add weight to the lie that we depend on fossil fuels and we will be lost without them. Because we know that we can move forward and I think the Public Utilities Commission knows that, too.”

 

The day before the press conference, Governor Newsom announced the country’s most ambitious health and safety setbacks, mandating 3,200 feet between new fossil fuel drilling operations and sensitive community sites. The rule made no mention of fossil fuel infrastructure like Aliso Canyon’s storage facility. 

“We saw Governor Newsom take momentous action yesterday to address fossil fuels in California, but there’s so much left to be done,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Clearly our governor understands that protecting our public health, safety and climate is more important than fossil fuel profits. And let’s be clear: SoCalGas has a financial incentive to increase the storage limits at Aliso. So my question is really for the Governor: are you signing off on this increase at Aliso Canyon despite your promises to shut this place down? Or is it a failure of leadership to hold the PUC accountable for siding with SoCalGas?”

Tyson Siegele, Energy Analyst with the Protect Our Communities Foundation: “The fossil fuel industry is pushing a false narrative. An increase in the storage cap is not needed for reliability. The current storage limit or lower storage limits have provided for reliability for six years since the blowout. The 68.6 Bcf limit would only be required if one were to assume major outages on transmission pipelines, disappearance of gas supply limitations at other storage facilities, or zero adjustment for local generation and the coldest day in 35 years all occurring at the same time. Unless the PUC votes down both proposals on November 4, then SoCalGas and its allies will be granted unneeded storage in a prioritization of profits over people.”

”It’s extremely sad that we still have to be here fighting after six years,” said Kyoko Hibino, co-founder of Save Porter Ranch. “I look back every year on this date with the clear memory of the worst gas blowout in U.S. history. It’s still haunting. Last year’s anniversary was the hardest year. From my cancer diagnosis to the cancer journey to recovery to the passing of my cat. Every time I smell gas, I fear another gas blowout. I fear cancer reoccurring. It is a mental and emotional trauma.”

President and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch and 14-year resident of Porter Ranch, Matt Packuko: “So many people have permanent and ongoing health problems. The state’s own commissioned analysis of the root cause of the blowout was so damning that the CPUC themselves opened a separate safety investigation of SoCalGas’ safety culture. That’s yet another reason this facility’s usage should not be increased until this safety investigation is complete. Governor Newsom, it’s time to exercise your executive authority and keep your promise to shut down this facility.”

From Andrew Krowne, President and Cofounder of Environmental Health Research: “Today marks another sad and disappointing milestone. The community has taken the lead since Day 1. It took a local physician to start looking at patients during and immediately after the blowout. It took a member of the community to start a symptom tracker rather than wait years for the government to catch up. Why is the community needed to take the lead? Because of complete regulatory failure.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom Institutes 3,200 Foot Safety Setbacks But Makes No Mention of Ending New Fossil Fuel Permits

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — After years of grassroots organizing and pressure, today Governor Gavin Newsom announced the immediate establishment of 3,200 foot health and safety buffers between current drill sites and nearby communities — 700 feet more than the distance initially requested by environmental advocates . Newsom’s announcement comes just before he is set to take the stage at the world’s biggest climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow next week. Frontline communities have waited two years for the promised health and safety rule from CalGEM.

“Governor Newsom’s announcement is a victory for communities on the frontlines of drilling who suffer the daily health impacts of proximity to fossil fuel extraction, ” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “3,200 foot buffer zones between sensitive community sites and drill locations are a vital step in protecting Californians from the pollution and emissions of fossil fuels. But we know that there is only one way for Governor Newsom to truly protect Californians from the public health and environmental crises caused by fossil fuels: stop issuing oil and gas permits immediately.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Alisal Fire Forces Evacuations and Renewed Calls for Fossil Fuel Phase Out Before COP26

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Barbara, CA — While the Alisal Fire burns through Santa Barbara County and edges closer to an abandoned oil facility, environmentalists are renewing calls for an end to new fossil fuel permits before Governor Newsom heads to the UN Climate Summit in November.

“We knew the Dixie Fire would likely not be the last wildfire this season to force evacuations of Californians from their homes,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “And now the Alisal Fire is taking its place as another devastating consequence of climate change and the fossil fuels driving it. While the fire inches ever closer to an abandoned ExxonMobile oil facility the danger intensifies. Oil infrastructure is prone to combustion even without severe drought, but with increasingly hot temperatures, dry winds and parched landscapes the likelihood of disaster skyrockets. Every second of Governor Newsom’s inaction on fossil fuel phaseout endangers Californians on the frontlines of climate disasters. Governor Newsom must act before the next Dixie Fire, before the next Orange County oil spill, and before he stands before the world as a climate leader at the COP 26. He must end all new fossil fuel permits now.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Analysis Details Immense Scale of Corporate Water Abuses in California

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA – Today the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch released “Big Ag, Big Oil and California’s Big Water Problem,” a report detailing for the first time California’s most egregious corporate water misuses. The piece pinpoints industrial agriculture as among the worst offenders, swallowing large portions of California’s water resources and exporting billions of gallons of water overseas through heavily irrigated crops like almond and alfalfa as well as dairy. 

Among the report’s detailed findings is the fact that all the water used to maintain California’s mega-dairies could provide enough water for all the residents of San Diego and San Jose combined. Foreign and domestic corporations also use California’s limited water to irrigate crops that are then exported to feed dairy cows overseas. Saudi dairy company Almarai owns 15,000 acres in Blythe, CA for just such a purpose, purchased after Saudi Arabia deemed water-intensive crops like alfalfa were not a beneficial use of the country’s limited water resources. 

Extreme drought conditions exacerbated by climate change currently envelop 88 percent of California and fuel wildfires of ever-increasing intensity. The report’s analysis highlights the trillions of gallons of water currently headed to corporate coffers and not Californians’ faucets, potentially leading to thousands of wells across the state going dry by the end of next year.  

“What this research reveals is an astonishing precedent of water mismanagement and preferential treatment given to corporate entities in our state,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy upon the report’s release. “Fossil fuels and industrial agriculture like mega-dairies not only pollute our climate, they drain California of valuable water resources that should belong to the people. One million Californians are without clean drinking water. Climate disasters like drought and wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity. Without action from Governor Newsom to end the parasitic hold Big Ag and Big Oil have on our water resources, California’s inequities will sharpen and its communities will suffer.”

Among the recommendations laid out by the white paper for Governor Newsom are an immediate statewide declaration of drought, end to new oil and gas drilling permits, and the designation of groundwater used for almonds and alfalfa in the southwest San Joaquin Valley as wasteful. 

Read the full report here.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Catastrophic Huntington Beach Oil Spill Highlights Perils of New Drill Permits

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Huntington Beach, CA — Efforts to contain the biggest oil spill in recent memory are underway in Huntington Beach after an offshore drilling platform sent at least 126,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Coastlines have been closed and crews are still working to identify the full extent of the damage to local ecosystems.

Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy released this statement in response to the oil spill: 

“We didn’t need further proof of the devastation wreaked by fossil fuels on our environment, but here it is. The 126,000 gallons of crude oil leaching onto the shores of Huntington Beach directly threatens nearby communities, wildlife and ecosystems. It is past time for a just transition away from dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure, whether on land or at sea. The hard truth is that fossil fuels breed bigger disasters as our climate warms. The Huntington Beach oil spill is the worst in recent memory. It will likely not be the last. Governor Newsom must end all new permitting for fossil fuel drilling right now to protect Californians from worse disasters to come.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Environmentalists and Aliso Canyon Survivors Demand Governor Newsom Shut Down the SoCalGas Facility

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – At a press conference the day after SoCalGas announced it had reached an agreement to end litigation related to the Aliso Canyon gas blowout, plaintiffs in the suit and community members impacted by the blowout made it clear that Governor Newsom must shut down the facility immediately.

Governor Newsom directed the California Public Utilities Commission to expedite the closure of Aliso Canyon in November 2019. Despite this, the CPUC is considering a proposal by SoCalGas to increase the storage limits at the field, and use of Aliso Canyon has ramped up in the last two years. Community leaders urged Gov. Newsom to show bold leadership and put a timeline in place to close the facility immediately.

“No amount of money can make up for the suffering Los Angeles communities have endured after the Aliso Canyon gas blowout,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Governor Newsom has survived the recall and yet this community has not seen justice served. Every time this facility is used, the community immediately reports health issues. It is a constant trauma for this community as long as the SoCalGas facility remains open. We are calling on Governor Newsom to keep his promise and shut this facility down.”

97 percent of the plaintiffs must agree with the payout SoCalGas is proposing for the settlement to become final. SoCalGas has yet to reveal any details on how the $1.8 billion would be distributed among the 36,000 plaintiffs.

“It’s actually an insulting number,” said Matt Pakucko, co-founder of Save Porter Ranch and 14-year resident of Porter Ranch. “The most important issue is not the one that’s in the headlines. It’s shutting down Aliso Canyon. So we’re calling on Gavin Newsom to do what you promised to do in your campaign and shut this facility down. This place needs to be shut down with your executive order. It’s already been proven so many times that it’s not needed for energy.”

From Andrew Krowne, President and Cofounder of Environmental Health Research: “That settlement is a tiny amount compared to the pain and suffering people have gone through. What I want to know is where is the multibillion dollar long term medical fund for the people that live here? No amount of money is going to restore the mental health or safety of all the people that live in the North San Fernando Valley while this monster still exists in these hills.”

“I now have asthma, COPD and two nodules on my lungs and one on my kidney and my thigh bone. Four people on my street have cancer. Two have died. We need to come to a better settlement. They should have asked us before they made a settlement,” said Maureen Capra, a 47-year resident of Porter ranch.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

SoCalGas Settles Aliso Canyon Litigation for Low $1.1 Billion

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA — Six years after the Aliso Canyon gas blowout that sent more than 100,000 metric tons of methane, metals, aerosolized oil and volatile organic compounds into the air, displaced 8,000 families, and sickened countless more, SoCalGas has agreed to a charge of $1.1 billion. Members of the nearby Porter Ranch community have consistently reported public health impacts from headaches and nosebleeds to asthma and cancer ever since the blowout.

“Money alone will never atone for the horrors the blowout unleashed on thousands of Los Angeles families,” Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy said in response to the announcement. “Nor will it erase the legacy of SoCalGas’ negligence. Community members still suffer daily from the health impacts of poisonous gases released into their neighborhoods then and now. If SoCalGas thinks $1.1 billion is enough to buy their silence or muddle their memories, it is sorely mistaken. Governor Newsom has directed the CPUC to shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. Nothing other than the immediate closure of Aliso Canyon will protect the safety of nearby communities or honor their experiences.”

“Don’t get too excited by this agreement,” said Save Porter Ranch President and Cofounder Matt Pakucko. “You can’t put a price tag on human suffering. SoCalGas’ devastating blowout will never be behind us until the Aliso Canyon storage facility is shut down and the danger it poses to the community is permanently eliminated. We are nowhere near a resolution.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Newsom’s Historic Climate Package Fails to Deliver Action on Fossil Fuels

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Amid the backdrop of trees swathed in tarps to protect them from the wildfires raging across Northern California, Governor Newsom signed a $15 billion climate package — the heftiest investment in the country. Despite the evocative setting and emphasis on climate change’s role in wildfires, however, the Governor made no mention of immediate action on phasing out fossil fuels. 

Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy issued this statement in response: 

“Governor Newsom’s $15 billion climate package is impressive in its scope and emphasis on electrification and fire prevention, but it lacks the ultimate fire prevention method: stopping new permits for the drilling of fossil fuels. There can be no discussion of resiliency in the face of wildfires without stopping the rampant expansion of fossil fuel drilling and infrastructure immediately. Under Newsom’s administration over 9,000 oil and gas permits have been granted to fossil fuel companies, directly fueling the flames of these scorching wildfires. Governor Newsom is absolutely correct in his assertion that our climate crisis has accelerated to the point where wildfire season is all year round. But leaving out such a key climate change accelerator as fossil fuels from the most ambitious climate package in the country is wildly shortsighted.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

New Mexico Lawmakers and Environmentalists Demand Senators Heinrich and Luján End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – Nearly a month after delivering a letter to New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich (D) and Ben Ray Luján (D), lawmakers and environmental advocates held a press conference to demand a response from the senators and a commitment to oppose the inclusion of fossil fuel subsidies in the federal budget reconciliation package. 

President Joe Biden has proposed repealing the $121 billion in subsidies from the federal government to the fossil fuel industries, but the bill currently moving through the House of Representatives features no such cuts. While both Senators Heinrich and Luján have acknowledged that New Mexico must move away from relying on the oil and gas industry for state revenue, they have yet to openly support the President’s initiative. 

“It is untenable to continue providing free kickbacks to the fossil fuel industry in the middle of a climate crisis that they are responsible for fueling,” Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Margaret Wadsworth said. “Senators Henrich and Luján know the importance of transitioning New Mexico’s economy away from fossil fuel dependence. Subsidies offer a dangerous prop to an industry that is not only contributing to global warming and usurping water resources, but also holding New Mexico back from a just recovery.”

The letter laid out why the myriad organizations support a pause on fracking and includes a well documented list of serious public health concerns that include increased risk for cancer and pregnancy complications. New research from Food & Water Watch confirms these heavy costs of fracking, borne disproportionately by frontline communities that are often rural, lower income and/or communities of color. New Mexico is the second-largest oil-producing state in the country and also one of the poorest states in the nation.

“To help the oil and gas industry right now just seems so counter to our values, not only as New Mexicans, but as Americans,” said New Mexico State Representative Andrea Romero D-46. “We are in a very tough position as legislators because it is such a big moneymaker for our state. We definitely need to get out of that and we should certainly not be subsidizing the businesses that continue to harm our communities and our environment. We need to find better ways to spend that money and reinvest into the people of New Mexico and not to the folks that are causing the problems.”

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Organizer Miya King-Flaherty: “Fossil fuel subsidies were designed to lower the costs of production, but they don’t account for the direct impacts to the environment, to public health, and to our air and water quality, and they serve to encourage more development that historically harms marginalized and poor communities of color. This perpetuates the cycle of sacrifice zones. In New Mexico, communities in the Greater Chaco region and the Permian experience public health impacts and other environmental harms directly caused by fossil fuel extraction.”

The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report issued a dire warning, indicating the climate is warming faster than initially anticipated and zeroing in on fossil fuel emissions as a primary culprit. 

“The oil and gas in the ground on state and federal lands belongs to the ultimate sovereigns: the people,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez D-16. “It does not belong to the corporations who make money by exploiting this resource. Historically, oil and gas were seen as part of the nation’s energy policy with the idea that pursuing oil and gas was what was best for the nation. But we know now that oil and gas drilling and combustion are contributing greatly to climate change. And this is not climate change anymore, but rather a climate crisis.” 

“This should not be a difficult position for our Senators to take,” said Raena Garcia, Fossil Fuels and Lands Campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “In fact, they’ve already pledged to repeal fossil fuel subsidies in the past. In 2008, Senator Luján called for repealing Big Oil subsidies in order to pay for investments in renewables. Senator Heinrich also called for ending these subsidies in 2015 and has a similar track record for voting for Big Oil subsidy repeal. We need ambitious climate policy if we are going to achieve a sustainable future. And when we are looking for revenue to invest in our future, these Big Oil handouts should be the first thing on the chopping block.”

Watch the full press conference HERE.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Environmental Advocates Claim Newsom Win As Victory For Climate Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Fresh from a victory against numerous Republican contenders in the fourth gubernatorial recall election of our nation’s history, Governor Gavin Newsom faces renewed calls from environmentalists to address the climate crisis by stopping all new fossil fuel permits, ending fossil fuel drilling and instituting immediate buffer zones between drill operations and community sites. 

Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy released this statement in response to the election: 

“Governor Newsom’s victory belongs to the environmental activists and constituents who delivered their support when it mattered most. Now Newsom must return that support to Californians in the midst of this climate crisis. Newsom has taken small but encouraging steps to phase out fracking — without which he surely would not have enjoyed the critical support of so many Californians who are demanding real climate action. But the crisis is deepening faster than Newsom is acting. Wildfires made worse and droughts lengthened by a warming planet point to one obvious solution: stop new fossil fuel permits, phase out fossil fuels immediately and institute 2,500-foot buffers between drill operations and community sites. Governor Newsom’s fight isn’t over because our fight isn’t over. We must protect our planet and our people from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure expansions. It’s time to follow the guidance of scientists all over the world and end oil and gas drilling now.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

City Council Votes to Move LA to 100% Carbon-Free Energy By 2035

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA — The vote to move Los Angeles to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 represents the most ambitious timeline for a public-owned utility to make the transition to carbon-free power. In a unanimous vote, the City Council directed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to include a scenario for carbon-free energy by 2035 in its Strategic Long Term Resource Plan (SLTRP). The City Council also passed its Green Hiring Plan, ensuring that high-paying green jobs are prioritized in the transition to clean energy.

“Los Angeles is leading California on the road to renewable energy,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “The vote by the City Council requiring LADWP to create a plan to power L.A. with 100 percent clean energy by 2035 is nothing short of groundbreaking. The next step for our city is clear. LADWP must follow the demands of the community and abandon its reliance on fossil fuels and false solutions like methane gas from factory farms or hydrogen. As the largest public owned utility in the country, LADWP works for us and it’s about time they take our lead.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

1,400 Petitions Urge Gov. Brown to Deny Easterday’s Mega-Dairy Permit

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Salem, OR – At a virtual press conference hosted by the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, experts and activists joined in urging Governor Brown to deny Cole Easterday’s application for a mega-dairy on the site of the former Lost Valley Farm. Earlier today, members of the coalition delivered more than 1,400 petitions to Governor Brown calling on her to deny the Easterday permit. 

“Eastern Oregon does not need another mega-polluting mega-dairy,” said Kristina Beggen, Organizer with the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition. “Governor Brown has an opportunity to listen to the voices of her constituents who don’t want mega-dairies in their communities. The transfer of ownership from Cody Easterday to Cole Easterday makes no difference. Mega-dairies produce climate disrupting methane emissions, no matter who operates them. Oregon can’t afford climate change accelerants, nor can its communities afford to have their scarce water resources hijacked or polluted by mega-dairies. Governor Brown must deny this application for the sake of Oregon’s climate and communities.”

The influx of mega-dairies has correlated with a dramatic decline in the number of family-scale dairy farms in operation in Oregon. In a span of 17 years, their numbers decreased by more than 85 percent from 1,900 to 228.

“Small farmers certainly won’t benefit from the introduction of another mega-dairy into Oregon’s agricultural landscape,” said Amy Wong, Policy Director at Friends of Family Farmers. “In just ten years, the number of cows in Oregon has grown 14-fold thanks to mega-dairies, making it harder for sustainable, smaller dairies to survive. Hundreds of Oregon’s small dairies were driven out of business in part by the market being flooded with cheap mega-dairy milk that doesn’t take environmental and other externalities into account. If Governor Brown denies Easterday’s permit, she can set an example of sustainable agriculture and climate leadership for other states to follow.”

The coalition also delivered a letter bearing the signatures of 21 organizations representing more than 120,000 Oregonians to the Governor, similarly urging her to deny Cole Easterday’s permit. The letter outlines concerns around the prospective facility’s methane emissions and impact on climate change as well as groundwater contamination from nitrates, already detected in the site’s soil and identified by ODA as a threat to groundwater sources.  

“The long-held narrative from Oregon officials that Lost Valley Farm and its hundreds of permit violations was simply ‘one bad actor’ is blatantly false,” said Mackenzie Aime, Oregon Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “All mega-dairies pose a threat to Oregon’s public health and environment. Governor Brown should learn from previous mistakes and deny this permit outright to protect our water and the health of frontline communities.”

“As the West continues to face drought conditions, only to worsen as a result of climate change, it’s unconscionable that officials are even considering providing permits to mega-dairies that will jeopardize the safety of Oregon’s critical groundwater supply,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We must say no to projects that will endanger the public and surrounding environment that have no justification other than to increase profits for industrial animal agriculture.”

According to a recent study, livestock production air pollution kills 12,700 people per year. Dairy operations are responsible for one third of those deaths. Mega-dairies emit ammonia, methane, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and hydrogen sulfide, all compounds hazardous to human health. 

“Industrial dairies use and pollute massive amounts of water, and the leakage from their animal waste lagoons leeches into groundwater, endangering the drinking water supply for all Oregonians,” said Amy Van Saun, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety. “Denying the Easterday permit application would send a strong message to all Oregonians: people matter more than industry profits.”

Watch and download the press conference here.

###

Stand Up to Factory Farms is a coalition of local, state and national organizations concerned about the harmful impacts of mega-dairies on Oregon’s family farms, communities, the environment and animal welfare. We seek legislation or an executive order establishing a moratorium on new mega-dairies and the expansion of existing mega-dairies until policies are in place that meaningfully protect our air, water, and climate and ensure the humane treatment of animals and the economic viability of family farmers. 

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

CalGEM Denies 14 More of Aera’s Fracking Permits Citing Public Health And Climate Concerns

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — CalGEM has denied 14 more fracking permit applications of Aera Energy, citing concerns about the impacts to climate and public health. Governor Newsom has faced increasing pressure to speed up the timeline to ban fracking, which currently remains 2024. 

“Another denial of 14 fracking permits is a victory for frontline communities and all of California,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Every day we have fresh evidence of the devastating impact of a warming climate and the need to stop fossil fuel extraction once and for all. CalGEM is denying these fracking permits for all the right reasons. The next move for Governor Newsom is clear: we must end fracking and oil drilling now and institute 2,500 foot safety buffers immediately to protect our frontline communities. California’s future depends on our Governor taking this essential next step.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Dixie Fire Now Worst Single-Source Wildfire in California’s History

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — While the Dixie Fire burned its way to the top of a long list of horrific California wildfires, the International Panel on Climate Change released a much-anticipated working group report that predicts the world’s temperatures will rise beyond the tipping point of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) in 2030 — ten years earlier than initially forecast. 

“Californians are faced with a sobering reality,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “While the Dixie Fire takes its place as the worst single-source wildfire the state has ever seen, we know it will likely not be the worst we will ever see. Fossil fuels are driving climate change and priming California for ever more catastrophic fires, and the recent IPCC report makes plain what science has already told us — we need urgent action to phase out fossil fuels to prevent a future choked by global warming. The Dixie Fire’s devastation is only a preview of climate change’s inevitable conclusion if we do nothing. Governor Newsom has the opportunity to lead Californians away from that grim reality by immediately banning fracking, stopping all fossil fuel expansions, and phasing out oil drilling.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

CPUC Hears Criticism On Aliso Canyon, PG&E and Regulatory Failure From Frontline Communities

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

San Francisco, CA — Today, the California Public Utilities Commission heard comments from frontline communities and organizations on the agency’s failure to stop the proposed increase in gas storage from SoCalGas at Aliso Canyon, needless expansion of a SoCalGas compressor station in Ventura, and its inaction after PG&E’s admission of culpability in the Dixie Fire. Members of frontline communities from Playa Del Rey, Ventura and Aliso Canyon joined their voices to demand the transition to clean energy and denial of SoCalGas’ request to expand storage at Aliso Canyon. 

“The California Public Utilities Commission has failed frontline communities for too long, prioritizing profit-seeking utility interests over public health and environmental justice,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “SoCalGas is requesting more storage capacity in direct contradiction of Governor Newsom’s order to shut the facility down after the country’s most catastrophic gas blowout. Allegiance to for-profit utilities like SoCalGas and PG&E stands in direct opposition to public welfare and environmental justice. These utilities must be held accountable for their contribution to widespread sickness and climate change-fueled wildfires. The CPUC has a clear opportunity to show its commitment to the public health of California residents by breaking this allegiance and denying SoCalGas’ expansion of Aliso Canyon, ordering an Environmental Impact Review for its expansion of an unnecessary gas compressor in Ventura, and beginning the transition to public power by disciplining and dismantling PG&E.”

SoCalGas is also undertaking a massive expansion of its gas compressor site in Ventura’s Westside neighborhood — a location already plagued with decades of pollution and environmental justice violations. While the CPUC committed to sending a letter requiring SoCalGas to hold a public forum and explain the details of its gas compressor expansion, the agency made no mention of the Environmental Impact Review demanded by the community, which has also formed coalitions to oppose the facility expansion. 

“The community is forcing public forums to be held,” said Ventura resident Margot Davis. “They have the unanimous support of their City Council, School Board members, State Assembly members, and they have corporate funding support. They’re trying to do the job this commission is charged to do. Wake up. Rein in SoCalGas.”

PG&E has also gone without a response from the CPUC after its admission that it probably bears responsibility for the Dixie Fire, now the 6th largest wildfire in California’s history.

Pete Woiwode with the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign compared the CPUC’s response to PG&E’s involvement in the start of wildfires with the tepid response of lawmakers after shootings prompt discussions of gun control, “We want more than thoughts and prayers. We want action. And you are empowered to do so. We demand that you hold PG&E accountable, reject their safety certificate, and move us closer to an energy system run by the people, not Wall St. We need you all to take your responsibility seriously.”

Ten hours elapsed between the time PG&E recognized its culpability in the fire and the time it notified CalFire. The CPUC is tasked with regulating privately owned gas companies and promoting the “access to safe, clean, and affordable utility services and infrastructure.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

PG&E Admits It May Have Contributed to Dixie Fire

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — At a meeting with regulatory agencies, investor-owned utility PG&E admitted it could bear some responsibility for the rapidly spreading Dixie Fire in Plumas and Butte counties. Now the 8th largest fire in California’s history, the fire has forced evacuations, burned through 274,139 acres and destroyed 45 buildings as of this morning.

“PG&E’s admission that it could bear responsibility for the Dixie Fire is yet another reason for the CPUC to put control of utilities back in the hands of California communities,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “While our climate warms and our drought worsens, we cannot afford any more mismanagement from PG&E that leads to catastrophic wildfires like the Dixie Fire. Investor-owned utilities like PG&E are motivated by profit, not by the public good, and have zero incentive to transition to safer, climate friendly energy infrastructure like local solar or battery storage. It’s time for an equitable energy transition that leaves no one out and protects all communities from PG&E’s mismanagement. It’s time for energy democracy. We call on the California Public Utilities Commission to hold PG&E accountable and begin the process of giving control of their energy decisions back to California’s communities.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

CalGEM Denies 42 Fracking Permits of State’s Largest Drilling Company

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Less than a month after denying all of Aera Energy’s fracking permits, CalGEM denied 42 of California Resources Production Corporation’s applications for fracking operations. The agency, however, cited missing application materials for the denial, making no mention of risks to public health and safety, environmental quality and climate change cited in the previous permit denial of Aera Energy.

In May, Governor Newsom directed CalGEM to come up with a plan to accept no new fracking permits by 2024. Despite pressure from environmental groups to speed up the process, he has thus far maintained the 2024 timeline.

“It’s encouraging to see CalGEM denying more fracking permits, particularly as California weathers a devastating drought and wildfire season induced by climate change,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “This is progress. But make no mistake, it is not enough. Governor Newsom must direct CalGEM to end fracking and all well stimulation now, not in two and a half years. Fracking and well stimulation permits are just a subset of oil drilling permits approved by the Newsom administration. Our climate cannot wait and neither can the communities across California sickened by air and water pollution. It’s time for Governor Newsom to take up the mantle of climate leadership that would make California an example for other states. It’s time to end fracking now and stop all new permits for oil and gas drilling.”

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]