Building the Big Oil Resistance, One Stop at a Time

by Caroline Henderson

July 7, 2023

Thousands of Californians. Seven cities. One message. Stop permits and end drilling!

For far too long, oil and gas companies have held California – and many other states across the nation – hostage, funneling millions of dollars towards blocking climate progress, all while fueling massive wildfires, record-breaking heat waves, historic droughts, and deadly winter storms – not to mention polluting our children’s lungs and endangering human health.

And while California has made significant progress in moving off fossil fuels, we’re seeing firsthand that the more our movement wins, the more Big Oil will try to beat back progress. Case in point: in 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill to end permits for new oil wells or to fix existing wells within 3,200 feet of communities statewide. Almost immediately, Big Oil dumped $20 million into a misleading signature-gathering petition drive to pause the law and get a referendum on the 2024 ballot to overturn these statewide protections.

But we can break free from the fossil fuel industry’s deathgrip on our state. Governor Newsom has the authority to stand up to Big Oil and put the state on a path to a cleaner, more just, and sustainable future. In order to win the lasting change we need, we have to be bigger and stronger than the oil and gas industry.

That’s why in spring 2023 Greenpeace USA and the Last Chance Alliance joined community leaders, environmental justice champions, and special guests in 7 cities across California for the Big Oil Resistance Tour. Together, we:

  • Mobilized thousands of Californians to build a movement powerful enough to take back our future from oil and gas companies.
  • Called on Governor Newsom to halt all new oil and gas permits and end neighborhood drilling.
  • Enlisted hundreds to take action in their communities with the End Dependence on Fossil Fuels distributed day of action.
  • Brought dozens of activists from “seats to streets” through a non-violent direct action training and community night hosted at the Greenpeace USA warehouse in Oakland.

And we’re only just getting started. Read on to find out what happened at each tour stop and add your name to the movement of Californians calling on Governor Newsom to move California beyond fossil fuels.

Big Oil Resistance Tour Highlights

On the Los Angeles stop of the tour, special guest, actor, and activist Jane Fonda, frontline community member and Goldman prize winner Nalleli Cobo, former Culver City Mayor Daniel Lee, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, LA Supervisor Holly Mitchell, and Reverend Louis A. Chase, gathered with hundreds of Angelenos in Holman Church in Inglewood to discuss how we can break free from Big Oil’s stranglehold on our communities and our democracy.

“We as a climate movement must come together and show [Big Oil] that our democracy will not be sold to the highest bidder. For even if they have billions of dollars in dirty money, we have one thing they do not: a movement of millions coming together, determined, righteous, and fighting like our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on it — because they do.” – actor and activist Jane Fonda

Jane fonda and room of allies with fists raised in solidarity

LOS ANGELES — Last Chance Alliance and STAND LA start the Big Oil Resistance Tour around California with a panel featuring environmental justice activists California Assemblyman Isaac Bryan; Cesar Aguirre of CCEJN; Nalleli Cobo of People Not Pozos; Tianna Shaw-Wakeman of Black Women for Wellness; and Daniel Lee (former Culver City Mayor) on April 28, 2023 at Holman Church in Midcity. | Photo credit: Tara Pixley

In Bakersfield, former labor leader and Greenpeace USA Chief Program Officer Tefere Gebre joined frontline Kern County leaders, organizers, and community members to discuss the urgent need for a just transition off fossil fuels.

“It’s the responsibility of the workers movement to work hand in hand with the environmental movement to find solutions, for the sake of their own membership. We must sit at the table together and design the future that we all deserve.” – Greenpeace USA Chief Program Officer, Tefere Gebre

Photo credit: Alicia Acevedo

Next, hundreds gathered in Oakland to hear environmentalist Bill McKibben and frontline organizers living in the shadow of Richmond’s Chevron refinery demand a more livable future for communities and workers.

“We are fighting for our lives and for our future, and we are winning the fight” – Alfredo Angulo of Communities for a Better Environment

For the 7th and final stop in Sacramento, environmentalist Bill McKibben, City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela, Indigenous water and land protector Tanda Bluebear, and youth and frontline organizers came together to send a strong message to Governor Newsom that it’s time to get Big Oil out of our neighborhoods, our politics, and our future!

“This isn’t just a climate crisis. This is a humanity crisis. These oil companies have been in our backyards since day one.” – land and water defender Tanda Blubear

Photo credit: Tesa Richardson @tesarichardsonphotography

The Big Oil Resistance Tour was a powerful display of community members rising up across California to resist Big Oil’s attempts to maintain their stranglehold on our future. And now, the real work begins. We’ll continue turning up the heat. In summer 2023, we’ll gather in our communities for a series of distributed actions to End Dependence on Fossil Fuels. Then, we’ll shine a national spotlight on California with a Fire Drill Fridays season dedicated to the fight to phase out oil drilling in the state.

But you don’t have to wait to take action. Ready to join the Big Oil Resistance? Add your name to the movement of Californians calling on Governor Newsom to stop issuing new oil drilling permits and enact a 3,200-foot buffer zone between communities and oil wells.

Caroline Henderson

By Caroline Henderson

Caroline Henderson is a Senior Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, based in Oakland, California.

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