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."
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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