March 2024 Newsletter

Local Action for a Better World

After the Berkeley ruling:

Moving ahead with building electrification

Practically everyone agrees that to cool the climate, we need to stop burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—to generate power. Instead, we need to use energy from the sun and wind to power the electrical grid. Then, we need to use this clean, renewable energy—not so-called “natural” gas—to power our buildings.

In California, residential and commercial buildings account for about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that decarbonizing buildings is essential. That’s why, back in July 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to ban gas hookups in most new construction.

On January 2, a federal court decision doomed this groundbreaking ordinance. That ruling against Berkeley was certainly a setback for the building electrification movement—not just for the city but also for other municipalities that have enacted similar ordinances since 2019.

As an example, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors last week voted to suspend enforcement of the county’s building electrification ordinance.

Fortunately, other approaches to building electrification are very doable, and lots of people—including Contra Costa County staff—are busily working on them.

To find out more about these promising pathways, read on


Brentwood to ban oil and gas drilling!

The Brentwood City Council is set to approve a ban on oil and gas drilling (OGD) that’s been in the works for almost two years. The ordinance was heard and unanimously approved at its February 13 meeting; it’s expected to become law at a second hearing soon.

Back in March 2022, the council enacted a moratorium, proposed by Councilmember Jovita Mendoza, on OGD within city limits. Since then, the moratorium has been extended twice while city staff worked on an ordinance.

Last August, when the California Supreme Court struck down a local drilling ban in Chevron v Monterey County, the city went back to the drawing board to craft a ban that takes that ruling into account. The new ordinance specifies two locations within the city where OGD will be disallowed. It also bans OGD from any development area unless that area has already been specifically listed as permitting it.

With the new law, Brentwood becomes the second Contra Costa city to outlaw oil and gas drilling. Antioch passed its ordinance in January 2022.

This is a big win for the climate—and for the health and safety of the Brentwood community!


Climate Leadership in Action

At a press conference on February 7, Antioch Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe signed a pledge to reject public investments in new, renewed or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure in the city of Antioch. He’s the first mayor to sign the pledge, which was originated by the global nonprofit Pacific Environment. 

Find out more here.

The City of Antioch was already on the cutting edge of climate policy with its 2022 ban on oil and gas drilling in the city.

Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe and the Antioch City Council have shown what climate leadership looks like. Now, it’s time for other Contra Costa cities—and the county—to follow their example.


Chevron and Martinez Refinery Co. to cut emissions

Fantastic news from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD):

“The Air District announced [on February 13] it has reached two separate agreements with Chevron and PBF Energy’s Martinez Refining Company resulting in an end to the litigation against the agency over its groundbreaking Regulation 6, Rule 5; major emissions reductions from both refineries; unprecedented penalties and other payments of up to $138 million; and a Richmond-area Community Air Quality Fund, among other benefits. The Air District estimates that the emission reductions achieved by the rule will result in tens of millions of dollars per year in health benefits by reducing early deaths and other health impacts of exposure to particulate matter.”

Response to the BAAQMD announcement was not 100 percent positive. The settlement with the Martinez refinery does not include some beneficial elements found in the settlement with Chevron. On February 15, the Substack newsletter Martinez News and Views reported that Mayor Brianne Zorn was “disappointed in the agencies and the lack of protection of the Martinez community.”

But on February 18, the newsletter published a clarification from Mayor Zorn acknowledging the settlement’s achievement of significant reductions in emissions and “major wins” for the Martinez community. For more information on her remarks—and on the differences between the Chevron and PBF Energy agreements—click here


ACTION ITEM: All-electric affordable housing

Here’s a great opportunity to speak up for building electrification in the Bay Area!

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) is planning a regional bond measure for the November ballot. The measure will ask voters to approve borrowing $10 - 20 billion for construction of affordable housing in nine counties and four cities.

Please tell BAHFA—don’t let any of this money go to gas infrastructure! Ask them to include an all-electric requirement in the Bay Area housing bond. Find out more and send a letter to BAHFA here.


Clean Cars for All

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has announced they’re expanding their Clean Cars for All program throughout the Bay Area. They’re now offering grants for income-qualified residents to retire their older car and replace it with a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery, or hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, or a pre-paid card for public transit and e-bikes.

Grant amounts range from $7000 to $12,000 depending on income and the type of vehicle to be purchased. Learn more here.


Bay Area leads in EV transition

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the percentage of electric vehicle registrations in metropolitan areas across the country. San Jose came in first with EVs accounting for 40 percent of all new auto registrations, and San Francisco came in second with 34 percent. Yay!


Climate Policy Summit, March 19

The Climate Center has announced its third annual California Climate Policy Summit, set for Tuesday, March 19 in Sacramento. This all-day event “will bring together elected and business leaders, policy experts, state officials, activists, and environmental justice advocates to build support for climate policy commensurate with what science demands.”

Find out more here—then register here.

Thank you,

Emily and Lisa

The time for climate action is NOW!

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