[Ghost Written] To break its toxic legacy, California must move away from fossil fuels

When I was a senior in high school, I had an asthma attack in the middle of class. Unaware of what was happening, I panicked for my life. Luckily, I was passed an inhaler by a classmate, but the fear of that moment and shock to my otherwise healthy life is something implanted in my memory. As an asthmatic, I recognize this is not just my reality, but the case for many communities whose children grow up in the toxic legacy of poor air quality and illness.

These problems have been recorded for decades, yet we are still being sickened by the oil and gas industry. As we speak, fossil fuel companies are turning public lands into profit playgrounds — drilling and fracking excessively, abandoning drilling sites, leaving untapped wells next to our communities, and making us pay the price.

In California, living near oil and gas production is harmful and often deadly for our communities — linked to asthma, nosebleeds, respiratory issues, high-risk pregnancies and cancer. And lately, because of a severe mismatch in supply and demand, oil and gas corporations are leaving thousands of wells unplugged in our state. This is not only dangerous for people living nearby, it is leaving our communities with a multibillion-dollar bill for environmental cleanup.

On Jan. 27, President Biden took a significant step to stop greenlighting fossil fuel extraction projects across the country by pausing new oil and gas leases on public lands. It is a promising sign this administration is committed to a healthier and just future powered by clean energy. Now, it’s Governor Newsom’s turn to build on this progress by halting new oil and gas permits here in California.

Currently, more than two million Californians live within 2,500 feet of an operational oil or gas welldangerous infrastructure that is leaking toxic chemicals and flammable gases like benzene, methane and formaldehyde into neighborhoods. On top of that, these emissions have only exacerbated public health concerns and inequities. As climate-fueled fires worsen, drought pervades and water resources dwindle, it is California communities who have paid the price in dangerous air quality, heat and disasters that have taken too many lives. This is especially true for low-income and communities of color. The oil and gas industry has not been held accountable for any of this destruction.

In 2019, the Trump administration opened up the sale of more public lands in California to oil and gas. Most of the acres sold are in the San Joaquin Valley, which already has some of the most severe air pollution in the country due in part to rampant oil and gas development. Meanwhile, elected officials in California — including Governor Newsom and Kern County Board of Supervisors — continue the poisoning of communities by permitting new fracking and drilling permits. The Newsom administration has approved . more than 8,000 oil and gas permits on state and private lands in its tenure.

This is not climate leadership, and with these choices, we are locking ourselves into a future that harms our health, our children, and worsens the climate crisis. We must be bold about taking action for a healthier and safer future.

Cutting our dependence on fossil fuels will be key to achieving climate progress that centers communities, health, and equity. We welcome President Biden’s temporary relief from the pollution and consequences of excessive oil and gas extraction on public lands. The administration should make this temporary ban on public lands permanent, and the Newsom administration should block new permits in the state, and fully phase out production.

California must urgently implement buffer zones of more than 2,500 feet, so people are not forced to live next to polluting infrastructure. We need a full analysis of the true costs of a toxic dependence on fossil fuelsWhen I was a senior in high school, I had an asthma attack in the middle of class. Unaware of what was happening, I panicked for my life. Luckily, I was passed an inhaler by a classmate, but the fear of that moment and shock to my otherwise healthy life is something implanted in my memory. As an asthmatic, I recognize this is not just my reality, but the case for many communities whose children grow up in the toxic legacy of poor air quality and illness.

These problems have been recorded for decades, yet we are still being sickened by the oil and gas industry. As we speak, fossil fuel companies are turning public lands into profit playgrounds — drilling and fracking excessively, abandoning drilling sites, leaving untapped wells next to our communities, and making us pay the price.

In California, living near oil and gas production is harmful and often deadly for our communities — linked to asthma, nosebleeds, respiratory issues, high-risk pregnancies and cancer. And lately, because of a severe mismatch in supply and demand, oil and gas corporations are leaving thousands of wells unplugged in our state. This is not only dangerous for people living nearby, it is leaving our communities with a multibillion-dollar bill for environmental cleanup.

On Jan. 27, President Biden took a significant step to stop greenlighting fossil fuel extraction projects across the country by pausing new oil and gas leases on public lands. It is a promising sign this administration is committed to a healthier and just future powered by clean energy. Now, it’s Governor Newsom’s turn to build on this progress by halting new oil and gas permits here in California.

Currently, more than two million Californians live within 2,500 feet of an operational oil or gas welldangerous infrastructure that is leaking toxic chemicals and flammable gases like benzene, methane and formaldehyde into neighborhoods. On top of that, these emissions have only exacerbated public health concerns and inequities. As climate-fueled fires worsen, drought pervades and water resources dwindle, it is California communities who have paid the price in dangerous air quality, heat and disasters that have taken too many lives. This is especially true for low-income and communities of color. The oil and gas industry has not been held accountable for any of this destruction.

In 2019, the Trump administration opened up the sale of more public lands in California to oil and gas. Most of the acres sold are in the San Joaquin Valley, which already has some of the most severe air pollution in the country due in part to rampant oil and gas development. Meanwhile, elected officials in California — including Governor Newsom and Kern County Board of Supervisors — continue the poisoning of communities by permitting new fracking and drilling permits. The Newsom administration has approved . more than 8,000 oil and gas permits on state and private lands in its tenure.

This is not climate leadership, and with these choices, we are locking ourselves into a future that harms our health, our children, and worsens the climate crisis. We must be bold about taking action for a healthier and safer future.

Cutting our dependence on fossil fuels will be key to achieving climate progress that centers communities, health, and equity. We welcome President Biden’s temporary relief from the pollution and consequences of excessive oil and gas extraction on public lands. The administration should make this temporary ban on public lands permanent, and the Newsom administration should block new permits in the state, and fully phase out production.

California must urgently implement buffer zones of more than 2,500 feet, so people are not forced to live next to polluting infrastructure. We need a full analysis of the true costs of a toxic dependence on fossil fuelsincluding impacts on air quality, emissions, climate change, groundwater, low-income households, communities of color, and Indigenous communities.

Our communities can no longer withstand the detrimental effects of climate change and the oil companies’ persistent attacks on our health. We must do more for our children and ensure they grow up in a future where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy clean food.

With President Biden’s executive order, we need Governor Newsom to use this opportunity to turn the tide on our fossil fuel present. California has a unique chance to create a future centered on environmental justiceone where we can break the chain of choking and respiratory illnesses that have plagued our communities for too long.

including impacts on air quality, emissions, climate change, groundwater, low-income households, communities of color, and Indigenous communities.

Our communities can no longer withstand the detrimental effects of climate change and the oil companies’ persistent attacks on our health. We must do more for our children and ensure they grow up in a future where they can breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy clean food.

With President Biden’s executive order, we need Governor Newsom to use this opportunity to turn the tide on our fossil fuel present. California has a unique chance to create a future centered on environmental justiceone where we can break the chain of choking and respiratory illnesses that have plagued our communities for too long.

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Courtney Bourgoin

Courtney Bourgoin

Writer and advocate fighting for just and equitable solutions to the climate and extinction crises.