Quantcast

This City Just Banned Fossil Fuel Extraction in Light of Trump Presidency

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation Tuesday prohibiting the city "from entering into or extending leases for the extraction of fossil fuel from city-owned land" in an effort to combat climate change.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation prohibiting new fossil fuel leases on city-owned property in an effort to combat climate change.iStock

The legislation by Supervisor John Avalos originated with 350 Bay Area analyst Jed Holtzman, who discovered the city was leasing to Chevron an 800-acre property that it inherited in Kern County. City finance officials say converting the property to a solar array could generate more revenue than current oil operations, which net the city about $320,000 annually.

"We're headed for catastrophic changes to our climate if we don't reduce our use of fossil fuels now. With the pending Trump presidency, local leadership on climate change is more urgent and important than ever," Avalos said.

"San Francisco and other cities can help lead this country into the clean energy future we need and resist the catastrophic policies our president-elect has proposed. The fact that we can make as much revenue from solar as we do from oil just reinforces that it's time to keep dirty fossil fuels in ground and transition to a renewable-powered economy."

The legislation was unanimously approved by the board's Budget and Finance Committee on Oct. 26 and its Land Use Committee on Nov. 14, following supportive testimony by members of 350 Bay Area, the Center for Biological Diversity and other San Francisco residents. The Board of Supervisors will follow Tuesday's vote with a second vote Nov. 29, after which it will go to Mayor Ed Lee for his signature, which is widely expected given the board's veto-proof unanimous vote.

"New data makes clear that burning even the coal, oil and gas that is currently being extracted will push us past our international climate requirements," Holtzman said.

"We simply must start leaving fossil fuels in the ground—and San Francisco is putting our money where our mouth is. Renewable energy is the future and the city will make more money from it as well. Other cities around California and the nation would do well to follow San Francisco's example."

As requested by Alfred Fuhrman's estate, which bequeathed the property to the city in 1941, revenues from the Kern County property are evenly split between the San Francisco Public Library and Golden Gate Park. City officials will soon begin the process of converting the property from an oilfield to a solar array as the city's lease to Chevron ends in 2020. The plan includes "just transition" language, which will minimize any potential job losses or impacts to employees in the region.

"We must keep fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophe," said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center's Climate Law Institute. "Oil industry practices in Kern County have been linked to groundwater contamination, earthquakes and health problems for nearby residents. This action is a victory for environmental justice today and climate action in the long run."

Kern County oil producers have made extensive use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, an environmentally damaging process that has helped make California the country's third-biggest oil-producing state. They also operate wastewater injection wells that have been linked to earthquakes and aquifer contamination.

"San Francisco takes an essential step to protect the health of Kern County residents and our climate with this ordinance," said Madeline Stano, an attorney with Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

"Oil production produces tremendous air pollution and water pollution that severely threatens the health and well-being of residents living, working and attending school nearby. This ordinance moves California's transition away from fossil fuels to safer energy production forward."

With Tuesday's vote San Francisco becomes a leader of the growing national "Keep It in the Ground" movement, which has been calling for an end to new fossil fuel leasing on public land and waters to help keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, as nations agreed to in Paris last year. A study released last year by the Center for Biological Diversity and EcoShift Consulting found current federal oil leases will last through 2055 and that halting new fossil fuel leases on federal land and waters would prevent the release of up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent of running 118,000 coal-fired power plants for a year.

"The Sierra Club applauds San Francisco for once again leading the country in the fight to protect our clean air and water from fossil fuel operations," said Lena Moffitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. "It is especially heartening to see the city set a transition plan to ensure our workers are looked out for—we cannot complete the transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy without them."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Ana Santos Rutschman

The world of food and drug regulation was rocked earlier this month by the news of a change in leadership at the Food and Drug Administration. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned and will step down in early April. His temporary replacement is Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.

Read More Show Less
MartinPrescott / iStock / Getty Images

On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. produce most contaminated with pesticides. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images

Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.

Read More Show Less
A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less