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Greenpeace USA responds to SB 467 initial hearing, releases new report

by Katie Nelson

April 13, 2021

“Today, California legislators have once again shown that they are unwilling to act on environmental justice and prioritize communities over polluters."

Sacramento, California — Today, the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water voted to not pass Senate Bill 467, which would begin the process of protecting communities from harmful oil and gas drilling in the state. The vote was decided by abstentions from Democratic Senators Bob Hertzberg and Ben Hueso — both of whom voted ‘no’ on environmental justice bill AB 345 last August and who have collectively received $126,857 from the oil and gas industry during their careers. 

In response, Caroline Henderson, Senior Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said: 

“Today, California legislators have once again shown that they are unwilling to act on environmental justice and prioritize communities over polluters. Our public officials cannot ignore the public health crises disproportionately affecting Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Californians — we need solutions that protect those on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and give everyone a chance to live safe, secure, and healthy lives. Fossil fuel executives have poisoned the environment and peoples’ bodies for long enough. California lawmakers must listen to frontline and environmental justice communities and take action to rein in dangerous fossil fuel extraction and end neighborhood drilling.”

Earlier today, just before the SB 467 hearing, Greenpeace USA, the Movement for Black Lives, and the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy released Fossil Fuel Racism: How Phasing Out Oil, Gas, and Coal Can Protect Communities. Citing examples from California’s Kern County to Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” and beyond, the report examines how every phase of fossil fuel production — extraction, transport, refining, and production — disproportionately pollutes Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low income communities. 

Original analysis from Greenpeace USA included in the report reveals that oil, gas, and petrochemical refining are among the most disproportionately polluting sectors of the economy, even when compared to other heavily polluting industries. 

Additional key evidence includes:

  • On average, Black communities are 54 percent more exposed to particulate matter pollution than the national population. Latinx communities are 20 percent more exposed. 
  • Racially discriminatory policies of the past like redlining definitively contribute to greater exposure to extreme heat, higher rates of asthma, and proximity to oil drilling today.
  • Pollution from natural gas infrastructure — including pipelines, drilling sites, and processing plants — has increased the risk of cancer for 1 million Black Americans. It’s also contributed to 138,000 asthma attacks and 101,000 lost school days for Black children.
  • In Richmond, California — a predominantly Black and Latinx city in the San Francisco Bay Area — emergency room visits increased sevenfold after a major fire at the Chevron Richmond refinery in 2012.
  • After a series of coal and oil power plants were closed across California in the early 2000s, researchers found a significant decline in preterm births for women living in nearby communities. 
  • In California, approximately 7.37 million people live within one mile of an active oil or gas well and  2.17 million people live within 2,500 feet of an oil and gas refinery.

California lawmakers and Governor Newsom have a major chance to lead the rest of the country in addressing fossil fuel racism and ushering in a just transition for communities and workers impacted by the fossil fuel industry. In the coming weeks, California regulatory agency CalGEM is expected to release a draft public health ruling proposing policies to protect communities located near drilling. Greenpeace and other organizations urge CalGEM to set 2,500 foot distance from drilling as the minimum setback in its draft rule. 

Notes:

The full report, Fossil Fuel Racism: How Phasing Out Oil, Gas, and Coal Can Protect Communities, is available online and for download here. A condensed fact sheet highlighting key findings and policy solutions is available here. Additional quotes from the lead authors of the report as well as endorsing organizations are available here.  

The findings of the Fossil Fuel Racism report and policy solutions therein have been endorsed by 26 leading public health, climate, economic, and racial justice organizations: 350.org, Action Center on Race and the Economy, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Anti Police-Terror Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth US, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, GreenFaith, Idle No More SF Bay, Indivisible, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, Mothers Out Front, National Hispanic Medical Association, Oil Change International, Our Climate, People’s Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rainforest Action Network, RISE St. James, STAND-L.A., Sunrise Movement, and Working Families Party. 

About the report authors:

Greenpeace USA is part of a global network of independent campaigning organizations that use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) is a non-profit, public interest law firm and justice center with a mission to advance structural shifts toward climate justice and ecological equity in communities of color on the frontlines of climate change. GCCLP anchor’s Gulf South for a Green New Deal and the Red, Black & Green New Deal initiatives at the Movement for Black Lives

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. M4BL includes activists, organizers, academics, lawyers, educators, health workers, artists, and more, all unified in a radical vision for Black liberation and working for equity, justice, and healing.

Contact: 

Katie Nelson, Strategic Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (678) 644-1681, [email protected] 

Katie Nelson

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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