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Center for Biological Diversity

Bay Area activists respond to Phillips 66's renewable diesel announcement

By Janet Pyegeorge, Shoshana Wechsler, Matt Krogh - Stand.Earth, August 20, 2020

Protect the Bay coalition calls the move ‘another example of what will likely happen in an unmanaged transition off fossil fuels’

RODEO, CALIFORNIA — Bay Area activists are responding to Phillips 66’s announcement made last Thursday, August 13, that the company would close its Santa Maria refining facility, its carbon plant in Rodeo, and convert its 122,000 bpd Rodeo petroleum refinery to a 42,000 bpd renewable diesel facility by 2024, saying this abrupt revelation — which joins the recent announcement of the idling of the Marathon Martinez refinery — is another example of what will likely happen in an unmanaged transition off of fossil fuels. Phillips 66 made the announcement without advanced warning to Contra Costa County decision makers and without community involvement.

Members of the Protect the Bay coalition, which was formed in 2019 to prevent the expansion of the Phillips 66 refinery and marine terminal in Rodeo, expressed the following concerns and questions in response to Phillips 66’s announcement:

Shoshana Wechsler, Sunflower Alliance: "We congratulate Phillips 66 on its long overdue admission that refining petroleum is toxic and harmful. But becoming the world’s largest supplier of biodiesel by merely recycling used cooking oil doesn’t quite compute. That’s a whole lot of freedom fries. Let’s face it — refining and burning 'renewable' transportation fuels is only a first step towards genuine sustainability.”

Wilder Zeiser, Stand.earth: “On the face of it, reducing Phillips 66’s refining capacity could be a positive step, in alignment with CBE’s recent report, “Decommissioning California Refineries.” But to understand the details — local pollution shifts, where the feedstock will come from, how many millions of acres could be needed for soy and palm trees — there must be a full scale environmental review combined with a 180 degree shift away from their planned tar sands expansion.”

Nancy Rieser, Crockett Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (CRUDE): "We need to be mindful of 'greenwashing' during these times when refineries look for ways to prolong their life cycles while the world moves toward solar energy and electrified transportation. This project, in particular, bears closer scrutiny. The first press release about this project stated that used cooking oil would be the primary feedstock and was silent about the need to turn millions of acres into soybean production. It also suggested that less harmful emissions will be coming out of the stacks."

Gary Hughes, Biofuelwatch: “The false promises of biofuels are being leveraged by Phillips 66 to hide their ambition to stay locked in on fossil fuel energy far into the future. Our organization stands with the residents and working people throughout the North Bay refinery corridor that are organizing for a just transition and demanding an end to the treatment of their communities as sacrifice zones.”

Janet Pygeorge, President, Rodeo Citizens Association: "Our vision for Rodeo does not include Phillips 66. How dare they use our community name in their project of fake promises. Read between the lines: What kind of feedstocks? There is no mention of scrubbers to prevent toxic emissions into the atmosphere. In Rodeo, our families live every day knowing the toxic air we breathe destroys our immune system and is a silent killer 365 days a year, 24/7. A few of us left to continue our fight to save lives. BAAQMD, listen to our plea to live. You must protect the people.”

Culver City Takes Historic Steps to End Neighborhood Oil Drilling

By staff - Sierra Club, August 14, 2020

CULVER CITY, CA—Last night, Culver City councilmembers took the first necessary steps to phase out oil extraction in the city’s 78-acre portion of the Inglewood Oil Field. After a presentation on the amortization study commissioned by the Oil Subcommittee, and virtual public testimony, the council unanimously directed staff to develop a framework and timeline for the phase out of active wells. Diverse stakeholders gave testimony in favor of the motion from labor unions including United Steelworkers Local 675, California Nurses Association, and Jobs to Move America, environmental organizations from Sierra Club, NRDC, Food & Water Action, Center for Biological Diversity and renewable energy advocates including GRID Alternatives and the Clean Power Alliance in addition to many local residents and medical professionals.

Urban oil extraction and production have long exposed Los Angeles residents to toxic emissions and dangerous chemicals in their own neighborhoods. Oil production sites use and emit known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, like benzene and formaldehyde, fine and ultra-fine particulate matter, and hydrogen sulfide. All of these chemicals have proven records of toxicity and are known to cause health impacts ranging from nosebleeds to chronic headaches, increased risks of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and increased risk of cancer.

“Every day nurses across California treat children with asthma and we see firsthand the connection between environmental and public health,” said Tveen Kirkpatrick, R.N. wth California Nurses Association/ National Nurses United. “We are proud to stand with the communities closest to toxic operations in Culver City and call for a shutdown of the Inglewood Oil Field. California should look beyond fossils to a future where workers and communities don’t pay the price for the oil industry’s pollution with their bodies.”

Over one million people live within five miles of the massive Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oilfield in the nation, sprawled across Culver City and the historically African American neighborhood of Baldwin Hills. For decades, residents have called on local and state elected officials to strengthen health and safety protections from industrial oil operations near their homes, schools and parks. With Culver City now advancing plans to phase out existing oil wells, local environmental justice, labor and health advocates are urging councilmembers to seize this opportunity to model a Just Transition. They have sent multiple letters to Heather Baker, Assistant City Attorney, calling for the city to hold oil operators responsible for cleanup costs, and ensure that a properly trained and local unionized workforce is paid a living wage for the remediation of wells. 

Labor, Environmental Groups Urge Emergency Action to Protect Frontline Workers From COVID-19

By Various - Center for Biological Diversity, et. al., August 11, 2020

Legal Filing Demands Trump Administration Use Defense Production Act to Provide PPE, Prevent More Deaths, Illness

WASHINGTON— Labor unions representing health care workers, teachers, transit operators and millions of other frontline workers joined with environmental groups today to demand that the Trump administration take emergency action to provide adequate masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to these essential workers.

The legal petition demands that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf act immediately to ensure the manufacture and distribution of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Trump administration has refused to properly manage PPE production and distribution, leaving states and industry to compete and frontline workers short of supplies.

“It’s terrifying to risk your life every day just by going to work. It brings a lot of things into perspective,” said Rick Lucas, a registered nurse at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and president of the Ohio State University Nurses Organization local of the Ohio Nurses Association. “I’m not going to give up on protecting my patients, even though it’s clear the federal government has basically given up on protecting us. More than 100 of my coworkers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and many of those positive tests were due to occupational exposure because of lack of PPE. This is inexcusable.”

Today’s petition was submitted by some of the nation’s largest labor unions — representing essential workers in healthcare, education, transportation and service sectors — including the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, National Nurses United, American Federation of Teachers and Amalgamated Transit Union. The groups collectively represent more than 15 million workers in frontline industries that have suffered thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses from COVID-19.

“The Trump administration is AWOL on safety and refuses to help the front-line workers who are still in desperate need of more PPE,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is unconscionable, it is costing lives and in this petition America's essential workers are demanding answers, and most of all, action.”

In March President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders declaring a national emergency due to COVID-19 and delegating broad powers to Azar and Wolf under the Defense Production Act. The act is designed to ensure the provision of essential materials and goods during public health emergencies. The secretaries have failed to fully utilize their authority, leading to a shortage of PPE.

No Worker Left Behind: Protecting Workers and Communities in the Green New Deal

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 2019

The Green New Deal Resolution submitted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, while it includes many protections and benefits for workers, does not include language that specifically addresses workers who might be adversely affected by the transition to a climate-safe economy. Such GND proposals were soon criticized as too vague to provide protections that workers and unions could count on. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, for example, told the Economic Club of Washington, DC, "We would want a whole lot of changes made so that workers and our jobs are protected in the process."

There are now several GND plans proposed by political figures, including Democratic presidential candidates, that spell out how protections for workers might be implemented. There are also a variety of GND proposals from individuals and groups that further spell out such protections.

In this briefing paper we lay out the basic elements that have been proposed to protect the well-being of workers and communities who may be adversely affected by aspects of the GND and the transition to a climate-safe economy. We summarize how each of the plans would go about protecting workers and communities whose jobs may be threatened. In the Appendix we provide partial texts from which these summaries are extracted.

The purpose of this compendium is not to evaluate which candidate or other proponent has the best plan. Rather, the purpose is to present the various strategies and programs from which future shapers of the GND can select and combine to forge the best possible program.

Read the report (PDF).

Drilling Towards Disaster: Why US Oil and Gas Expansion is Incompatible With Climate Limits

By Kelly Trout and Lorne Stockman - Oil Change International, et. al., January 2019

World governments, including the United States, committed in 2015 in the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, at a maximum, to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C). This report is part of The Sky’s Limit series by Oil Change International examining why governments must stop the expansion of fossil fuel production and manage its decline – in tandem with addressing fossil fuel consumption – to fulfill this commitment.

The global Sky’s Limit report, released in 2016, found that the world’s existing oil and gas fields and coal mines contain more than enough carbon to push the world beyond the Paris Agreement’s temperature limits. This finding indicates that exploring for and developing new fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with the Paris goals. In fact, some already-operating fields and mines will need to be phased out ahead of schedule.

Since the global Sky’s Limit report in 2016, new scientific evidence has added urgency to this call for a managed decline of fossil fuel production. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that reaching 2°C of warming would significantly increase the odds of severe, potentially irreversible impacts to human and natural systems, compared to limiting warming to 1.5°C. The difference could be the wipeout or resilience of whole communities and ecosystems. The report underscores that a 1.5°C path is possible but will require “rapid and far- reaching” transitions and “deep emissions reductions in all sectors” so that carbon pollution nears zero by 2050.

Unfortunately, existing climate measures aren’t cutting it – literally. Current national policy pledges under the Paris Agreement would put the world on course for 2.4 to 3.8°C of warming, a catastrophic outcome.

This glaring gap in ambition has been driven in part by a systemic policy omission. Over the past three decades, climate policies have primarily focused on addressing emissions where they exit the smokestack or tailpipe. Meanwhile, they have largely left the source of those emissions – the oil, gas, and coal extracted by fossil fuel companies – to the vagaries of the market.

Basic economics tells us that the consumption of any product is shaped by both supply and demand. It follows that reducing supply and demand together, or ‘cutting with both arms of the scissors,’ais the most efficient and effective way to reduce a harmful output. Putting limits on fossil fuel extraction – or ‘keeping it in the ground’ – is a core yet underutilized lever for accelerating climate action.

Curbing the supply of fossil fuels does not mean turning off the taps overnight. Rather, it means stopping new projects that would lock in new pollution for the coming decades. It means managing an orderly and equitable wind-down of existing fossil fuel infrastructure and extraction projects within climate limits. It makes it possible to plan for a just transition for workers and communities.

If the world is to succeed in meeting the Paris goals, this type of comprehensive and clear-eyed approach is urgently needed everywhere, and particularly in the United States – one of the world’s top producers and users of fossil fuels.

Read the report (PDF).

The Sky’s Limit California: why the Paris Climate Goals demand that California lead in a managed decline of oil extraction

By Kelly Trout, et. al. - Oil Change International, May 22, 2018

This study examines the implications of the Paris Agreement goals for oil production and climate leadership in California.

California’s leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown, have been vocal supporters of the Paris Agreement. Yet, California presently has no plan to phase out its oil and gas production in line with Paris-compliant carbon budgets. Under the Brown administration, the state has permitted the drilling of more than 20,000 new wells, including extraction and injection wells.

We provide new data findings related to:

  • The climate implications of ongoing permitting of new oil wells in California;
  • The ways that a managed decline of existing wells can prioritize health and equity; and
  • Elements of a just transition for affected workers and communities.

We recommend that the state take the following actions:

  • Cease issuing permits for new oil and gas extraction wells;
  • Implement a 2,500-foot health buffer zone around homes, schools, and hospitals where production must phase out;
  • Develop a plan for the managed decline of California’s entire fossil fuel sector to maximize the effectiveness of the state’s climate policies; and
  • Develop a transition plan that protects people whose livelihoods are affected by the economic shift, including raising dedicated funds via a Just Transition Fee on oil production.

As a wealthy oil producer, California is well positioned to take more ambitious action to proactively phase out its fossil fuel production and has a responsibility to do so in order to fulfill its commitment
to climate leadership. By taking these steps, California would become the first significant oil and gas producer globally to chart a path off fossil fuel production in line with climate limits.

Download (PDF).

100 Days of Resistance: Center for Biological Diversity Releases Action Plan

By Kierán Suckling - Center for Biological Diversity, January 26, 2017

The Center for Biological Diversity today released its 100 Days of Resistance plan to stop Donald Trump’s unprecedented attack on wildlife, people, civil rights and democracy.

The 25-point plan includes mobilizing 1 million people to take the Pledge of Resistance; halting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; fighting the confirmation of Trump’s corrupt, unqualified cabinet nominees; hiring 10 new attorneys, investigators and activists to aggressively hold the administration accountable; protecting the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act for the benefit of people and wildlife; defeating efforts to give away or turn management of our public lands over to states and corporations; and strengthening alliances with groups fighting for gender and racial equality, American Indian sovereignty, LGBTQ rights, freedom of speech, press and religion, workers’ rights and other civil rights and values.

“Trump has awoken a fierce resistance movement such as this country has never seen,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “His authoritarian agenda has galvanized people from every walk of life to fight for the protection of wildlife and the environment, civil rights, equality and a democracy that serves everyone, not just the corporate elite. He should know this: We’re in it for the long haul. We’ll fight him every day in the courts, every week in the halls of power, and in every street of this nation.”

The Center’s Earth2Trump Resistance Roadshow just completed a very successful, high energy cross-country tour of 16 cities, rallying thousands of people from Seattle to Salt Lake City, to Houston, Denver and Omaha to organize, resist, and to write personal #Earth2Trump messages which we carried to the inauguration protest in a huge globe. More than 180,000 have signed the Center's Pledge of Resistance in person or online.

Activists Announce Major Climate March in D.C., Nationwide April 29, 2017

By Paul Getsos, Paige Knappenberger, and Jean Su  - Center For Biological Diversity, January 26, 2017

In the wake of last weekend’s Women’s Marches, activists have announced a major “People’s Climate March” on April 29 in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

The effort is being organized by the coalition formed out of 2014’s People’s Climate March, which brought more than 400,000 people to the streets of New York City and many more to cities around the world.

The march comes in response to widespread outrage against President Trump’s disastrous anti-climate agenda including his executive orders advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines as well as his attacks on healthcare, immigrants, and programs and policies that improve the lives of all Americans. The event will cap 100 days of action to fight Trump’s proposals to reverse climate action, dismantle our government and hand power over to the one percent.

More than 145 protests in local communities took place across the country in the first 100 hours of the Trump presidency, demonstrating widespread opposition to the administration’s anti-environment and corporate agenda as part of an ongoing campaign organized by the People’s Climate Movement.

Californians Deliver 350,000 Signatures Calling on State, Gov. Brown to Stop Irrigation of Crops With Oil Wastewater

By Julie Light and Patrick Sullivan - Center for Biological Diversity, August 9, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Pushing a wheelbarrow filled with 350,000 petition signatures, concerned Californians gathered outside the capitol today to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Water Resources Control Board to stop the potentially dangerous practice of using wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate California’s crops. The wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is now being used to irrigate over 90,000 acres in the Cawelo Irrigation District and the North Kern Water Management District, and is slated to expand in the near future to other districts.

The group, which included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer, Center for Biological Diversity scientist John Fleming and California consumers, delivered a petition with more than 350,000 signatures, gathered around the state and nation, calling for an immediate halt to the practice. The petition signatures were collected by CREDO, Care2, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, RootsKeeper, Center for Environmental Health, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

“Californians want to know what is in the water and the soil that is used to grow their food. This should not be a problem, especially if there is nothing to hide,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

California produces almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed the United States, and more than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation. Some of the United States’ most popular brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines), Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties) and The Wine Group (makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines).

At the same time, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation. The limited analysis done used outdated methods; regulators don’t screen for all the chemicals used in oil extraction, many of which are carcinogens. The Los Angeles Times reported that a test of the wastewater sold by Chevron to the Cawelo Irrigation District contained acetone and benzene.

Some of the chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage. No comprehensive and independent analysis has been conducted to assess the safety of the wastewater. Oil-industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected benzene levels in oil wastewater at thousands of times the federal limits for drinking water.

“As a nurse, one of the simplest yet most important recommendations I can give a patient is to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Lisa Hartmayer, nurse practitioner at UCSF. “How can our governor and water regulators sleep at night knowing that the fresh foods that millions of people eat to stay healthy may actually be threatening their health? We don’t know if our tangerines, almonds and grapes are contaminated with water that could be carcinogenic.”

In addition to the dangers posed to consumers, agricultural workers are exposed daily to the oil and gas wastewater with no protection for their health and safety.

“Oil wastewater doesn’t belong on California’s crops. It’s irresponsible to take this kind of risk with our food supply,” said John Fleming, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should take a precautionary approach to mixing oil with food and wait until there are studies proving this practice is safe before we even consider it.”  

“I’m here for my kids. It concerns me that Governor Brown would allow this practice without thorough testing. This is the food that I feed my kids every day. The thought that they could get sick from tainted food really worries me,” said Sue Chiang from Oakland.

Petition signers from around the state appealed directly to the governor and his desire to be perceived as an environmental champion. Rev. and Mrs. Don Baldwin from Nevada City wrote in their comments: "Dear Gov. Brown - If you are to truly go down in history as our 'environmental' governor, you MUST see this as one of the most significant actions you need to take."

A growing number of Californians are raising concerns about the use of wastewater for crop irrigation and organized Protect California Food, an affiliate of Californians Against Fracking, which is calling on Governor Brown and state water regulators to immediately ban the practice. Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.

Critical Gulf: The Vital importance of ending new fossil fuel leases in the Gulf of Mexico

By various - Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Bold Louisiana, August 2016

As this report was going to press, a massive storm caused unprecedented flooding in Louisiana, destroying tens of thousands of homes and killing at least 11 people. Thousands of others were forced to evacuate. This is exactly the kind of extreme weather projected to become more severe on the Gulf Coast as the climate crisis intensifies.

And that’s what this report is about: the necessity of a rapid and just transition to clean energy to reduce this terrifying threat to the Gulf Coast. We must begin by stopping new fossil fuel leasing in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent offshore drilling and fracking that could ultimately contribute nearly 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to global warming.

“Climate change is never going to announce itself by name. But this is what we should expect it to look like,” was the first line of a New York Times story about the flood. Indeed climate scientists and meteorologists are linking the Louisiana deluge to a series of extreme floods caused by climate change in the United States over the past two years.

The link between burning fossil fuels and heavy rains is clear and direct. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which warms our atmosphere. “As the atmosphere warms, so does the ocean,” climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe explained in a recent Facebook post about the Louisiana flooding. “Evaporation speeds up, making more water available for a storm to pick up and dump as it sweeps through.”

The National Weather Service in New Orleans measured record levels of moisture in the air during this storm. More than two feet of rain fell on Baton Rouge and southern Louisiana in under 48 hours, sending most of the region’s rivers over their banks on Aug. 17 and flooding thousands of homes. That deluge was the result of a low-pressure storm system that stalled off the coast and kept sucking more moisture from the unusually warm Gulf waters, which will only grow warmer over time.

It’s high time the communities of the Gulf Coast cease to be treated as sacrifice zones. They deserve environmental justice and a clean energy future. Turning away from fossil fuel extraction in the Gulf will allow them to weather future storms, help end our dangerous collective reliance on fossil fuels, and dramatically reduce hazards for future generations.

Read the report (PDF).

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