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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.” 

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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).

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

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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

Rally to Stop SoCalGas in Ventura Unites Frontline Communities, Elected Officials and Public Health Advocates 

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA — More than 250 frontline community members and elected officials from across California rallied in Ventura — the fastest warming county in the U.S. — to demand action from Governor Gavin Newsom on fossil fuels. The rally took place at the site of a gas compressor station SoCalGas is currently planning to double in size despite problems with unplanned methane leaks and strong community opposition. The compressor sits across the street from an elementary school and a Boys & Girls Club. 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. At the rally, community members spoke in front of hand-painted signs and formed a human chain, linking arms from the gate of the elementary school to the compressor site to demonstrate their close proximity.

“Governor Newsom has the perfect example of climate leadership right here in Ventura where the community has won on establishing 2,500 feet setbacks between oil wells and schools and stopped the building of a new fracked gas power plant,” said Food & Water Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Now it’s Governor Newsom who needs to lead and stop this dangerous gas compressor facility from expanding. Each time Gov. Newsom allows a facility like this one to operate, not only is he complicit in fueling the flames of climate change via worsening drought and wildfires, he is also endangering the health of vulnerable communities on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. We call on Gov. Newsom to take a stand with the people of Ventura and communities across California — stop the expansion of this gas compressor facility and direct your agencies to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Review before any other work can continue.”

“Southern California Gas compressor station caused me a very serious form of cancer,” said Westside Community Council Chair and Ventura resident Liz Campos. “And I don’t want any child or adult in this neighborhood to have to experience it. It’s painful. It’s hard. Children don’t need it in their future. So SoCalGas has to move to shut down.”

Residents voluntarily evacuated after natural gas was released from the compressor facility into the air over the Fourth of July weekend. Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava recalled SoCalGas’ response to the City’s inquiries: “They told us it was the equivalent of seven personal BBQ tanks and that there was no regulatory reporting requirement for this type of venting. But why not? Because to them, it was nothing. These happen two to four times a year.”

Hosted by the Westside Clean Air Coalition, Last Chance Alliance, Stop SoCalGas Coalition, and VISIÓN, the rally was attended by members of impacted communities working to shut down fossil fuel extraction and SoCalGas infrastructure such as the Playa del Rey Gas Storage Facility and Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, site of the largest gas blowout in U.S. history, as well as elected officials from around the state. 

Wendy Miranda Arevalo of Communities for a Better Environment said, “I may live far from Ventura but I see how our issues overlap and how your neighborhood is like mine. I live in a neighborhood close to oil and gas drilling and refining. I have seen how these sites affect my health and my mother’s health, who has to use a nebulizer everyday so she can breathe. When I was in high school, my track team would run around the neighborhood, past drilling sites that we didn’t even know were drilling sites. We had asthma, nosebleeds. But we all deserve to breathe clean air and this is why we’re asking Newsom to stop the expansion of fossil fuels across the state and calling for an immediate end to oil and gas operations in neighborhoods.”

“I’m here representing 300 electeds, representing half of all Californians, who are calling for an end to oil and gas drilling and 2,500 foot setbacks for the entire state,” said Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch. “And I’m not just talking about it. In Culver City, we’re doing it. We are next to the largest urban oil field in the United States — the Inglewood Oil Field — and we are shutting it down.”

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, whose company has had its headquarters in Ventura for 48 years, said, “We want to stop the expansion of this site, then we want to remove the site, and finally we want to ensure there is a setback of at least 2,500 foot between fossil fuel facilities and residential areas.”

Residents staged a peaceful demonstration following the rally on Monday, July 19, passing out donuts and materials on health and safety to workers entering the site. 

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

CalGEM Denies All 21 of Aera’s Fracking Permits  

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release:

Today, CalGEM announced it has denied all 21 of Aera Energy’s applications for fracking operations in California, citing risks to public health and safety and environmental quality and climate change under regulatory statutes. This the first permit denial of this scale for reasons related to public health and climate.

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 three-year timeline.

“CalGEM is following the science and adhering to its regulatory purpose in denying these fracking permits, but Governor Newsom needs to follow through and instruct his agency to deny all new oil and gas permits immediately,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Frontline communities have just been spared the public health hazards and devastating environmental impact that would have come with the 21 fracking wells under consideration. Unfortunately, CalGEM continues to permit all other oil and gas wells that further harm public health, water and climate. Governor Newsom must instruct CalGEM to come into  alignment with their mission statement to protect life and health and deny all new permits now. Incremental steps are not enough to protect Californian communities and our climate, or save our scarce water resources from drilling operations that usurp them.”

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

“Unplanned Venting” at SoCalGas Compressor Station Prompts City of Ventura to Request More Information

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Ventura, CA — After receiving calls from Ventura Westside residents on Friday, July 2 who said they smelled gas in the air around the SoCalGas compressor station at 1555 N. Olive Street, the Ventura Fire Department sent officers to inspect. While they didn’t find enough natural gas in the air to warrant an evacuation order, several residents left the area of their accord. The City of Ventura has since requested more information from SoCalGas about this unplanned venting.

“An unplanned venting of methane into the atmosphere is not something to be taken lightly when there are families and children within feet of the compressor station,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer and member of the Westside Clean Air Coalition Tomas Rebecchi in response. “SoCalGas has repeatedly insisted this facility — labeled as a “super-emitter” of methane — poses no risk to the community directly adjacent to it. Yet we have fresh evidence that this compressor site is dangerous not just for our climate, but also for our community. We have far too many unanswered questions for SoCalGas to continue business as usual. Governor Newsom must direct the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct an Environmental Impact Review before any further work or unplanned venting occurs.”

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

LA City Council Members Opt For Recess Instead of Climate Action

Categories

Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA — Today marks the fifth Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice and Rivers (EECJR) Committee meeting to be cancelled since the LA100 Study, a roadmap for transitioning Los Angeles’s energy grid to 100% renewables, was released on March 24. Since that date, the committee responsible for discussing critical issues on climate, environment, and the communities impacted has met only twice despite the historic megadrought, heatwaves and fires facing Los Angeles this summer. Committee Chair Mitch O’Farrell cancelled the meeting just before the Council’s July recess, ensuring the LA100 motion will not be heard before August. 

“Today, Angelenos could have seen a path forward to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030,” said Jasmin Vargas, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “We could have celebrated savings for ratepayers, freedom from fossil fuels, and local energy accessible to all of our communities. The ECCEJR committee has only met twice since the LA100 study was released. Today could have been a turning point. Now it’s just one more day in the worst mega-drought and most dangerous wildfire season the state has ever seen.”

Scenarios drawn from the LA100 Study leave room for false solutions like biogas and hydrogen, while failing to empower communities in their clean energy journey. In response to these gaps in the study’s scenarios, Climate Justice groups will offer an amendment after the July recess to keep L.A.’s communities at the center of the motion for 100 percent clean energy.

“We’re heading into another summer of dangerous, record-breaking temperatures and smog-filled skies, but rather than taking action, the L.A. City Council is taking off,” said Sierra Club My Generation California Deputy, Carlo De La Cruz. “The L.A. City Council has the power to set LA on its path to 100 percent renewable energy to improve our air quality, create green new jobs, and reduce hospital visits and personal health care costs, but all we see is delay after delay. Angelenos can’t wait in dangerous weather for City Council members to take action and release a plan that lays out how L.A. will achieve its clean air and climate goals. Shame on the City Council for failing the city once again.”

“This egregious move is a slap on the face for every Angeleno,” said Rachel Smith, Partnerships Lead with Sunrise Movement LA. “We have no time to continue putting these meetings off. While Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell goes on his summer vacation, the marginalized communities directly affected by their lack of action will continue to suffer. This is a human rights issue; we are experiencing extreme heat and droughts like never before and they will only get worse. Councilmember O’Farrell had an opportunity to embrace what we know is coming and work with urgency to create a liveable future with 100 percent renewables. Instead, he chose to ignore the plight of his constituents. We need action and we need it now.”

Only one week ago as LADWP announced its Racial Equity Plan and Equity Steering committee for the LA100 process, the utility also initiated its Strategic Long Term Resource Plan (SLTRP), a process that hinges on the City Council’s planned motion to get L.A. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

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

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Oil and Gas Industry Used 1.4 Billion Gallons of Water That Could Have Supplied California Households During Newsom’s Term

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this research attributed industry water use in 2018 as during Governor Newsom’s administration. Governor Newsom took office in 2019. This version is updated to reflect these changes.

Sacramento, CA — After examining the use of water by the oil and gas industry during Gavin Newsom’s tenure as governor, Food & Water Watch research has found that on Newsom’s watch the industry used about 1.4 billion gallons of freshwater for drilling operations that could have been diverted for household use. 

“Fossil fuel extraction not only hastens climate change and endangers the lives of frontline communities,” said Alexandra Nagy, director of Food & Water Watch’s California campaigns. “It also takes water from Californians struggling through one of the hottest and driest droughts on record. Regions like the San Joaquin Valley are bracing for a dry summer that will leave many without drinking water, a devastating prospect for a predominantly rural, Latinx region already suffering from decades of pollution from factory farms. Based on the recommendations provided by the state to Californians for water usage in a drought, the freshwater used by the oil and gas industry during Newsom’s term could have provided everyone in Ventura with more than a year’s worth of water.”

Some oil and gas companies routinely inject drilling wastewater into freshwater aquifers, rendering their water supply undrinkable. One study estimated that groundwater in the Central Valley Aquifer has the potential to decrease by 21 trillion gallons in the next 30 years without significant management and policy changes. Governor Newsom has set the date for phasing out oil drilling in 2045. The research also notes that as greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction rise and fuel climate change, California will continue to see drier droughts and more widespread wildfires. Should the average temperature increase by 1 degree Fahrenheit, water supplies from the State Water and Central Valley Projects are expected to decrease by 4%. 

“This is not a problem to be solved decades from now,” Nagy added. “20 years is too late for the communities on the frontlines going thirsty because the fossil fuel industry is sucking up their freshwater and leaving polluted aquifers in its wake. Governor Newsom must end all fossil fuel extraction not only for the sake of our climate, but also for the sake of Californians who depend on water resources that are already dwindling. Our state will burn and our rivers and aquifers will dry up unless Gov. Newsom displays the climate leadership he has long claimed to prioritize: ban oil drilling and all fossil fuel extraction now.”

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

100+ Organizations Demand L.A Community-Led Transition to Clean Energy

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Climate and Energy

At a press conference ahead of the L.A. City Council ECCJR Committee meeting, over 100 community organizations and candidates for public office submitted a letter demanding council members divest from false solutions like biogas and invest in community-centered clean energy solutions. The letter, spearheaded by Food & Water Action, responded to the LA100 Study and its pathways to renewable energy that allow for biofuels and hydrogen plants — two ideas endorsed by the fossil fuel industry as they allow for the retention of dangerous natural gas infrastructure.

Rather than investing in false solutions, the letter urges the Council to double down on solutions which invest in local infrastructure, conserve energy, create good local jobs, and give ratepayers more control over their energy system, such as energy efficiency, smart thermostat programs, rooftop solar/battery and microgrids. A transition focused on benefiting communities would require LADWP to deeply partner with ratepayers and community organizations in making the public utility’s clean energy programs equitable and accessible, especially for those in disadvantaged communities. 

“Over 100 organizations representing California’s everyday ratepayers have joined their voices to demand the City Council say no to false solutions like biogas,” said Food & Water Action Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “These are the voices that must be central as we plan a pathway to 100 percent renewable energy for L.A. We already know we can get there by 2030 and we know we can do it without relying on false solutions that prop up fossil fuel infrastructure. All we need now is the political will of the City Council to help us get there.”

“The time is now to stop the destruction and right the wrongs,” said Tina Calderon, a Tongva and Chumash Elder, Educator and Owner of Sacred Ground TM. “The right to have healthy food, clean air and water, as well as affordable housing and thriving lands must be dealt with now.”

Among the false solutions touted by the fossil fuel industry is biogas, methane that is usually extracted from manure from factory farms. LADWP also has yet to rule out carbon capture, sequestration or other means for fossil fuel interests to purchase the right to keep on polluting. 

“Dairy biogas has no place in a clean energy future that values environmental justice and equitable access to clean air, clean water, and livable communities,” said Aracely Garcia Gonzalez, policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “Increased demand for dairy biogas incentivizes the production and concentration of manure and cows, which means increased air pollution and water contamination in lower income communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley.”

“Just as we can no longer ignore the slow cooking of our planet, we can no longer ignore the disparate impact climate change is having on the communities of our city.” said Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, an organizer with Ground Game LA and Progressive Asian Network for Action. “The move to clean energy must serve to empower communities and not force them out of our own neighborhoods that we’ve grown up in.”

“If all areas of our society move together to achieve it, we have the power to transition whole communities toward thriving economies that provide dignity of work and a living wage,” said Daniel Tamm, chair of the Interfaith Solidarity Network. “We say to LADWP: we want to partner with you. We are churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. We want LADWP to be coming to our communities.”

“Climate justice is not limited to trees and conservation and reparative action and doesn’t end with flowery language. The climate justice movement is intersectional. It uplifts frontline workers in the fossil fuel industry, many of whom are Black and Brown.” said Josiah Edwards, a youth organizer with Sunrise Movement Los Angeles.”But how much are our lives worth to them, if they underfund initiatives that we called for, which would ensure a just transition?”

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

Ventura Residents Demand DTSC and CPUC Reform Amid Environmental Justice Violations

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Climate and Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Members of Ventura’s Westside Clean Air Coalition are using public comment to decry the hypocrisy and negligence of state agencies responsible for managing the environmental and public health risks of natural gas infrastructure. While the California State Assembly reviewed the budget of the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), coalition members pointed out the agency’s avoidance of public comment regarding remediation of toxic soil on the site of a SoCalGas compressor station. Despite the site’s proximity to an elementary school, parents were left out of the notification process for the remediation plans. Citing lack of public interest, the DTSC denied each community request for public hearings on the project in English and Spanish.

“The DTSC and CPUC are complicit in the environmental injustice happening in Ventura’s Westside,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Tomás Rebecchi. “While the CPUC has neglected its mandate to independently regulate SoCalGas’ compressor station, the DTSC has refused to engage with members of our community and relegated Ventura’s Westside to a sacrifice zone. The cleanup plans initially proposed by the DTSC affect the entire community, particularly the children at E.P. Foster Elementary School whose lungs are vulnerable to the toxic particulates unearthed by any remediation efforts. We need the DTSC to go back to the drawing board and include the voices of those most impacted by these efforts: the parents and residents of Ventura’s Westside.” 

Without notifying the community, the DTSC agreed on an exemption for the remediation plans from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and any environmental impact report. 

“SoCalGas claims they have already obtained the needed approvals for this massive expansion project, in a time where it is widely acknowledged that we should be phasing out natural gas for the health of people and planet.” said Liz Beall, executive director at CFROG. “Yet there is no evidence this project was formally approved by any state or local agency, and we will not be satisfied until a full Environmental Impact Review is performed.” 

“The DTSC has members appointed from the oil and gas industry who know the gas company is simply cleaning up to protect its employees during the compressor expansion project,” said Liz Campos, Chair of the Westside Community Council. “To exempt the gas company from an EIR for the entire project ignores the imminent danger to the community. In meeting with the local DTSC regulators I was given the impression that the people who live in the disenfranchised neighborhood of West Ventura were unimportant, even perhaps expendable; that the DTSC’s relationship with SoCalGas is of primary importance; and we (the citizens whose health has been badly affected) must understand that the gas company’s expansion of the compressor station after an awkward excuse for toxic soil cleanup is a done deal.”

“Something is wrong at the Department of Toxic Substance Control,” said Jonathan Ullman, director of the Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter. “And if what’s happening in Ventura’s Westside community is any indication, its funding must be tied to reform. When local residents, social justice and environmental groups asked the Toxics Dept to re-open up the comment period and hold an official public hearing, they were denied. This would never have happened in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. It shouldn’t happen in Westside Ventura. It’s an environmental injustice that must be reopened.”

The Ventura City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before further work can continue on the natural gas compressor station on 1555 North Olive Street, yet the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has yet to hold SoCalGas accountable. SoCalGas plans to expand the compressor station site, adding four new compressors, more than doubling the horsepower of the current compressors.

“According to CalEnviroScreen, the project is located among the most pollution-burdened communities in California,” said CAUSE Senior Policy Advocate Lucia Marquez. “A super emitting toxic facility like this with a known history of leaks throughout the years should have never been built next to hundreds of small children, yet an expansion doubling its size is being considered. The City of Ventura was pushed to pass a resolution requesting further review of this project because of the inconsistent and inaccurate information they received from SoCalGas staff when asked about the expansion plans. We believe this project is a major violation of the PUC’s environmental justice policies.”

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