Last month’s state legislative session came to a close with a bang. With the backing of Governor Newsom, five climate-related bills passed both the Senate and the Assembly—committing a total of $54 billion to fight climate change over the next five years. Last week, the governor signed all five bills into law. Now, in addition to much more funding for climate projects, the state has set more ambitious targets for the transition to renewables—and has embraced natural carbon sequestration by requiring carbon-storage targets for our natural and agricultural lands.
So much to celebrate! The big surprise was the governor’s support of SB 1137, which requires a 3,200-foot health and safety setback not only for new oil wells, but also for any proposed reworking of existing wells within a kilometer of homes, schools, or hospitals. This is wonderful news for millions of Californians.
But opponents of the setback law have already come up with a plan to reverse it: this week, they filed a referendum with the CA Attorney General's office, hoping to get the law on the ballot. If they can find about 623,000 voters willing to sign their petition, setback requirements will be on hold until the 2024 election.
The other new, climate-related laws aren’t entirely good news: our state is embracing unproven, expensive technology as a key way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) is a terrible idea for many reasons, but oil companies promote it so they can continue extracting and burning fossil fuels.
A bit of good news within the bad: SB 1314, one of the five bills that passed, prohibits the use of CCUS for Enhanced Oil Recovery, or EOR. EOR is the practice of injecting captured carbon into an oil well in order to extract every last drop of oil, thus boosting production instead of reducing it.
Our goal remains clear: we have to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels, and we have to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Urgently.
Two of the beneficial bills that passed the CA legislature, AB 2146 and AB 1757, are notable because they show a cooperative attitude toward Nature. AB 2146, authored by East Bay assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, bans non-agricultural use of powerful neurotoxic insecticides called neonics. AB 1757 mandates setting targets for natural carbon sequestration—that is, helping Nature draw more carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground.
As we may sometimes forget, we humans are part of the unimaginably complex web of life that has evolved over millions of years as a vast system of delicately balanced cycles and processes. We must remember that our lives depend on our cooperation within this system.
Neurotoxic insecticides are a bad idea because they destroy bees and other pollinators that plants depend on to reproduce. Instead of cooperating with Nature, they disrupt a basic life process and imperil not only our food supply, but also our health.
Trees and other plants naturally remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in the soil. To cool the planet, we need to cooperate with and encourage this process—to plant more trees and nurture existing ones. We don’t need to invent machines to do the same thing much less efficiently.
Too often, our technologies have damaged or destroyed natural systems. For our species to survive, we must learn to consider the effects of our actions on the entire web of life.
As we’ve mentioned, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is updating its Scoping Plan, which outlines steps to achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. In its current form, the draft update is far from satisfactory. Instead of relying mainly on renewable energy sources like solar, it puts forward dubious carbon-capture schemes favored by the oil and gas companies so they can keep on pumping.
Our friends at the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) have set up a call-in campaign aimed at Governor Newsom. He needs to tell CARB to stand up to Big Oil, reject carbon capture, and phase out oil and gas by 2045.
Get all the info to make your call here. Let the governor know we’re watching him!
At the Martinez City Council meeting on September 14, city staff introduced an ordinance calling for all new construction of residential, hotel, office and retail buildings to be all-electric. The draft ordinance is modeled closely on the one passed by the Board of Supervisors last January, which applies only to the county’s unincorporated areas. It’s on the agenda of the October 5 council meeting and is expected to pass without revisions.
Then, three of Contra Costa’s nineteen cities and towns will have natural-gas bans in place as Martinez joins Richmond and Hercules. Across the state, sixty cities and counties have passed building electrification ordinances so far.
It’s a good start, and there’s plenty left to do—not just getting all municipalities on board, but also strengthening the local bans on natural gas by extending them to all new construction and to existing buildings undergoing major additions or alterations. Eventually, we’ll need to find an equitable way to move from gas to electric appliances in all buildings.
Mark your calendar! We’re joining Sustainable Walnut Creek to bring you a whole week of engaging, informative events that will help you be part of the climate solution. Learn about climate advocacy; a planet-friendly diet; restoring Walnut Creek’s namesake watershed; reducing use of plastics; home electrification—and more! Get details here.
Sustainability Week will be off to a great start with EcoFest in the Park! Local climate groups will offer information and demonstrations on how to live more sustainably—from water-wise gardening to upcycling to e-bikes and electric cars. It’ll be fun for the whole family with live music, circus performers, and a kids’ art zone. Wear your Halloween costumes for the Eco trick-or-treat!
See you in Civic Park on Saturday, October 22, from 11am to 3pm. You won’t want to miss this!
Election season is upon us, and we’re excited to see so many strong climate candidates for local office in cities all over the county. We’re enthusiastically endorsing the twelve candidates listed below. For each one, follow the link to learn about them and find out how you can support their campaign.
Laura Nakamura Concord City Council, District 5
Vanessa Warheit El Cerrito City Council
Latika Malkani Orinda City Council
Cameron Sasai Pinole City Council
Anthony Tave Pinole City Council
Zhanna Thompson Pleasant Hill City Council
Eduardo Martinez Richmond Mayor
Jamin Pusell Richmond City Council District 4
Doria Robinson Richmond City Council, District 3
Sara Lashanlo San Ramon City Council, District 2
Laura Patch Walnut Creek City Council, at-large seat
In these challenging times, it’s crucial to elect officials who are capable and serious about addressing climate issues. Please—make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address! You can register online, but the last day to do so is October 24. Not sure you’re registered? Check your status here.
Lisa and Emily.
Follow us on Facebook, @350contracosta, Twitter, @350ccc
The time for climate action is NOW!
©350 Contra Costa Action
This message has not been expressly authorized, requested, or approved by any federal, state, or local candidate, candidate’s committee or their agents, or by any ballot issue committee.
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