They’re part of the environmental justice movement, manypeople of color from less well-off, more polluted places like South L.A. or Wilmington. They want the fight for climate change to result in cleaner air for themright now.
Meanwhile, the people they are protesting (Governor Brown and his allies) are part of the mainstream environmental movement, which is often wealthier and whiter. Mainstream environmentalists support big, sweeping actions to fight climate changegloballyand generally thinkenvironmental justice groups are trying to twist climate lawsinto fixing air pollution, too.
They want the Governor to stop issuing new drilling permits for oil wells. And they want him to phase-out existing oil production by creating a buffer: any well that’s within 2,500 feet of a home, school, or park would have to be shut down.In Southern California alone, that’s a whole lot of wells. Here’s a map giving you some idea of just how many:
“California’s climate policy won’t be complete until the state address its own dirty oil extraction,” said Kassie Siegel with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group allied with the South L.A. activists. “It’s hard to be climate leader while also being a top oil producing state.”
WAIT.HASN’T GOVERNOR BROWN DONE A TON TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE?
Yes, he has.
He signeda lawcommitting California to slashing its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
His administration heavilysubsidizeselectric vehicles and trucks.
Newbuilding codespassed this year require all new homes to have solar panels.
His attorney general, Xavier Becerra, isfightingto preserve California’s strict greenhouse gas standards for cars, which the EPA is trying to repeal
We could go on, but you get the idea.
Still, protesters say this isn’t enough. Martha Dina Argüello, the head of Physicians for Social Responsibility in Los Angeles, saysGovernor Brown’s climate policies aren’t helping people who are most affected by oil drilling.
“The people who live near these oil wells, it’s really time to put them first,” she said.
HOW MUCH OIL DOES CALIFORNIA PRODUCE ANYWAY?
Look we’re not Texas, but California is thenumber six oil-producing statein the country. The oil industry is about three percent of California’s GDP and employs about 400,000 people, according to astudycommissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association.
Argüello acknowledges that if oil drilling were to end, a lot of people could be out of work. But that’s why she and other activists want what they call “a just transition” to help oil workers find new jobs.
“WE HAVE THE TOUGHEST RULES ON OIL.”
Brown, meanwhile, thinks this idea is totally impractical. The last time protesters heckled him in public, at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, he told them that would have devastating impacts on the economy. “If I could turn off the oil today, 32 million vehicles would stop!” he said.