City of Berkeley officials discuss further action on climate change

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City of Berkeley and Alameda County officials discussed Berkeley’s actions on climate change and urged further state action in a press conference outside Berkeley City Hall on Wednesday, which was organized by Elected Officials to Protect California, or EOPCA.

The officials spoke to the urgency of this situation and called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to make a plan to completely phase out oil and gas drilling. Berkeley’s ban of fossil fuels in new homes is an example of the kind of action that needs to be seen across the state, according to Berkeley City Councilmembers Sophie Hahn and Ben Bartlett.

“Recognizing that the science shows this (climate change) is an emergency — our daily existence shows that this is an emergency,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín at the conference. “The science is clear: To stop the climate emergency, to protect the health of our communities, we must phase out, completely, dirty fossil fuels.”

The speakers described the climate crisis as a global phenomenon that can also affect daily life. Arreguín cited the recent power outages as examples of how the community has been directly affected, with 1.5 million people affected by fires and blackouts in October of this year.

On Tuesday, Newsom announced a halt to the use of high-pressure steam drilling in extracting from new oil wells, as well as new restrictions on permit applications for fracking and new rules regarding public health near oil and gas extraction sites, according to an EOPCA press release. Elected officials called for more action.

In June, the city of Berkeley became the first in the nation to ban the use of natural gas in new homes. The city also declared a climate emergency and passed a resolution to become a fossil fuel-free city by 2025.

“We will continue to act to keep Berkeley at the forefront of environmental action, but our work here in Berkeley is not enough,” Hahn said at the conference. “We must act as a state and as a nation to combat climate change.”

Across 49 counties in California, 307 elected officials — 91 of whom are from the Bay Area — have urged Newsom to go further in enacting a statewide plan to phase out oil and gas drilling, Arreguín said at the conference.

In a letter to Newsom, EOPCA expressed concern for the environmental injustices that fossil fuels can create. Between 2011 and 2018, of the more than 21,000 new oil and gas wells permitted by the state, 76% were located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California and 67% were located in communities of color, according to the letter.

“Marginalized communities already struggle with reduced access to public transportation, telecommunications and necessary resources like food, water, shelter and medical services,” said District 2 Berkeley City Councilmember Cheryl Davila at the conference. “All of this will be amplified by a catastrophe, so we must do what we can to get everyone in our country to be fossil fuel-free.”

Contact Taylor Rudman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @TaylorRudman.