Oil and Gas Industry Used 3 Billion Gallons of Water That Could Have Supplied California Households During Newsom’s Term

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

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 more than 3 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]