Flex Your Power: Help SD350 Push for Climate Smart Legislation

The SanDiego350 community gathers at a previous training event. The most recent Legislative Training was held virtually due to current circumstances.

By: Jill O’Keeffe, SD350 Legislative Intern

SanDiego350 is working hard this summer on state legislation. We kicked off the effort to organize meetings with our legislators this past Sunday, June 28, at the Legislative Training where SD350 members met virtually to learn how to combat climate change with legislation and which bills are currently priorities. 

The SD350 community, members from several 350 groups around the state, and individuals from affiliated organizations gathered for the event. Attendees heard presentations on the bills that SD350 is advocating for this year, how bills become law in California, and advocacy best practices. 

Nine bills were highlighted within the presentation. Among the 2020 California climate bills are AB-345SB-54, and AB-1080. AB 345 would require a 2,500 foot buffer between new oil drilling sites and homes/schools/businesses. Even now, with oil demand down, the governor is approving new drilling sites in California. We need to protect working families from the toxic environment created by oil drills. California Climate bills AB 54 and AB 1080 are both two-year bills that would move California toward eliminating 75% of single-use plastics by the year 2030. The mandated recycling proposed by these bills would reduce greenhouse gases in both production of materials and degradation of said materials if put in landfills or littered rather than recycled.

The presentation included two social justice bills: Senate bills AB-1460 and AB-3121. These bills target racial equity by advocating for an ethnic studies requirement at all California State Universities and by creating a task force to develop a plan for reparations for African Americans, respectively. AB 1460 and AB 3121 will improve exposure to cultural and social justice history and begin to address the disparities of a shameful history. Racial and economic justice are indisputable and essential to climate justice. We, as advocates for climate justice, must strive for a world where people of color have a safe and healthy future on this planet.

SD350 will be urging legislators to think big and invest in systemic changes that will allow us to reduce carbon pollution and prioritize frontline communities and workers. There needs to be a change in our economy that focuses on justice, both racial and environmental, while expanding the scope of cleaner energy. Elected officials need to be reminded that even during this uncertain time, many people are still dedicated to bettering the future for this country. By joining these legislative trainings the SD350 community will help press legislators to invest now in a more sustainable future.

The training was a resounding success with many motivated community activists. The legislative training slide deck can be found here

What you can do: 

  • Contact local state legislators and ask them to support the important bills above. Call Senator Atkins (619-645-3133) and Ben Hueso (619-409-7690)and tell them to support AB 345, which protects residents near oil and gas extraction sites.
  • Contact Amanda at Amanda@sandiego350.org to learn how to get involved with advocating for these bills—via meetings, calling our legislators, attending trainings, and more!

Toyota Tainted

Last fall, Toyota took an action that puts them squarely on the side of polluters in the battle for cleaner air. Back in October, Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and others filed a lawsuit defending California’s vehicle emissions standards against an attack by the Trump administration – a case where Toyota might be expected to stand firmly on the side of defending California’s standards. Instead, Toyota sold us out, joining the defendant in attacking our state’s standards.

Toyota talks a pretty good talk when it comes to the environment. Just check out their goals in Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, the first of which is “Reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 90 percent from 2010 levels.” And you could say they’ve walked the talk too, with the iconic Prius – the first mass-produced hybrid-electric car, which pioneered mass electrification of passenger cars. 

But at the end of the day, the company has traded clean-air for favor with the Trump administration.

Why focus on Toyota?

Other carmakers besides Toyota took the defendant’s side in EDF’s lawsuit. So why single out Toyota? Because they, in particular, are demonstrating hypocrisy, given their facade of sustainability. And with 14.58% of the U.S. market in the first quarter of this year, they trail only GM and Ford. In addition, Toyota actually had a hand in crafting the California emissions standards!

We must fight Toyota’s stance, tooth and nail. There’s so much at stake – clean air in our lungs, a livable planet.

Assaulting California’s auto emissions standards

The Trump administration attack had come in September 2019, in the form of a rule “blocking California – or any other state – from setting its own standards for fuel economy or greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles”. It was well known that the administration was hell-bent from day one on favoring oil industry profits over clean air. (Just check out this timeline.) In anticipation of an attack, in July 2019, four major automakers reached an agreement with California to voluntarily adhere to its stricter emissions standards, regardless of what steps the federal government took. You’d think Toyota would have been among them, but you’d be wrong. The four companies that chose to protect our planet and our health were Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW.

Origin of California’s special status

California has had the right to set its own, stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles than the federal government’s, dating back to the 1967 Air Quality Act. That’s because California already had emissions standards in place by that time to address dire pollution in Los Angeles. The 1970 Clean Air Act honored that by allowing California to continue to write its own rules – subject to applying for and being granted a waiver by the EPA.

California is treated uniquely in this, due to its particularly severe motor vehicle-related air quality issues. However, under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, any state can choose to follow California’s standards. Significantly, 13 states and the District of Columbia do so choose. Known as the “Section 177″ states, they are primarily in the northeast of the country. 

Importance of California’s special status

As goes California, so goes the rest of the country. That’s because it’s uneconomical for automakers to manufacture cars to two different emissions specifications – one for the 14 states using the California standard and another for the rest of the U.S. using the EPA standard. This makes California’s special status extremely significant in terms of controlling climate pollution and protecting the air that we breathe.

California’s standards have directly resulted in the development of major technological advances to clean vehicle emissions. As a result, in terms of smog-forming pollution, the average new car sold in California – and nationwide – is more than 99 percent cleaner than a car from the 1970s.

 “It’s hard to overstate how important the ability for California to set its standards has been to public health and clean air over the past 40 years,” says Don Anair, deputy director for the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. And in a 2017 article, Wired Magazine’s Alex Davies called the California exemption “one of the most powerful environmental tools in the world.”

Assaulting Federal auto emissions standards

On March 31st, the Trump administration launched a second major assault on auto-emissions standards. In one of the biggest steps the administration has taken to reverse an existing environmental policy, it rolled back federal fuel economy standards established in 2012, under which new vehicle fleets would reach an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead, that federal goal is now lowered to about 40 miles per gallon. 

This latest attack makes it even more important that we retain our state’s ambitious goals! Let’s leverage COVID-19 downtime to take action.

Hit them where it hurts

The best way to apply pressure is by affecting sales. Dealerships act as critical ‘middlemen’ for the auto industry. In late February, SD350 joined forces with Activist San Diego at a protest at a local Toyota dealership – the Larry H. Miller Toyota dealership in Lemon Grove. This was part of Activist San Diego’s Toyota Loves Trump campaign – a campaign to pressure Toyota to drop its support of the administration in the EDF lawsuit. But with most of us currently sequestered at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, we must take action now through calls, emails, letters, etc. 

What you can do

Please tell Toyota that their behavior is unacceptable by contacting them in any of the following ways: 

  1. Call one or more of the 11 San Diego Toyota dealerships.
  2. Submit a comment to Toyota corporate at Email Toyota (Choose Advertising/Marketing as the Topic on the left side.)
  3. Write to Toyota headquarters:
    Mr. Tetsuo Ogawa, CEO
    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
    P.O. Box 259001
    Plano, TX 75025-9001

Here’s a sample of what you can say:

I’m a resident of XXX, California and am writing/calling to express my outrage at Toyota’s support of the Trump administration in striking down California’s right to have stricter auto-emissions standards than the EPA’s. 

I will not consider buying a Toyota [again] until Toyota Corporation does the following, and I will encourage my family and friends to do likewise:

  1. Drop support of the Trump administration in the lawsuit brought by EDF et al in October 2019.
  2. Publicly support California’s right to have stronger auto emissions standards than the EPA’s.

Our individual actions can add up to make a big difference in protecting our state’s auto emissions standards. Thanks in advance for your action on this issue!

‘Brown’s Last Chance’ Could Be Our Last Chance To Avert Climate Change Apocalypse

By Stephanie Corkran, SanDiego350

Credit: Mark Dixon / Wikimedia Commons

Brown’s Last Chance is a campaign demanding Governor Jerry Brown halt the development of unsustainable, polluting, fossil fuel infrastructure and begin an immediate phase-out of fossil fuels in California. If he’s unwilling to do so, a multitude of organizations (environmental, health, justice, community, consumer) are prepared to protest the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit.

This climate summit, held in San Francisco next month from September 12 to 14, was the brainchild of Gov. Brown. It was conceived of in response to President Trump withdrawing the United States from the international Paris Climate Accord. World leaders will be in attendance to continue the work of past international climate conferences to mitigate climate change. There will be numerous affiliate marches and rallies around the world (including San Diego’s Rise For Climate March) to demand a transformation to clean energy and real action on climate change.

Gov. Brown and California get a lot of credit for climate change action and certainly market that reputation. The problem is this state and its government during Governor Brown’s reign neglected fossil fuel production as a target for climate change mitigation. Oil and gas production is declining in California, but not fast enough in light of the severity of the climate change threat.

This is the last year the governor can serve. The idea of the campaign is to hit now, while media is focused on the conference and environmental issues, and when he is not running for reelection. Perhaps he will be less beholden now to special interests that favor fossil fuel production and buy influence with their campaign contributions.

Why the imperative to protest – why a call to action?

HYPOCRISY OF CONTINUED EXTRACTION

Nationwide, oil and gas extraction is increasing. California, with its accolades for leading the climate change fight in the U.S. is, in fact, a major contributor to that extraction.

Production of fossil fuels is inconsistent with the state’s mandates to address climate change. On the one hand, state lawmakers are currently considering SB 100 which would move up the schedule of clean energy goals — since interim targets of SB 350 have been met ahead of schedule. On the other hand, California is a major producer of fossil fuels. The state needs to stop fossil fuel extraction to avoid the worst risks of climate change worldwide. The consensus of scientists is that fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.

Yet, California is ranked sixth in the nation for oil production. And because California has a lot of low-quality oil resources, it takes more extreme, energy-intensive methods to extract it. Indeed, the oil that California extracts is some of the dirtiest on the planet.

Inglewood Field, CA, 2014
Photo courtesy of FracTracker Alliance

The state was also recently ranked 13th in gas production. While California gas production has declined, it is still significant and uses the highly problematic hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) method of extraction.

According to the California Department of Conservation, there were 652 oil and gas wells stimulated using hydraulic fracturing in 2014. In 2015, California had 56,653 active oil and natural gas wells.

In addition, there was a 17 percent expansion of offshore oil wells in California state waters under existing leases from 2012 to 2016.

All this while the state suffers some of the worst health impacts of fossil fuel extraction and use. California is home to eight of 10 of the cities with the worst air quality in the nation. The poisoning of extreme amounts of water (a resource in short supply in this drought-ridden state) via the list of fracking chemicals used is also a hazard to health.

Rig in South LA, California
Photo by Brook Lenker, FracTracker Alliance, October 2017

EXISTENTIAL THREAT

Current extinction rates on earth are hundreds of times higher than normal evolutionary background rates. These extinction rates are directly related to our fossil fuel addiction and its impact on the climate. Entire ecosystems are collapsing and if too many links in the chain of biodiversity disappear, the systems that support human life go. We will follow the dinosaurs into oblivion – the difference being that dinosaurs did not do it to themselves.

There is a 5 percent chance of cataclysmic climate change by 2050, and a chance of our own extinction. While many will bet on the intellect and industriousness of our species to avoid or survive this threat (humans have gone down to as few as 1000 breeding individuals in our evolutionary past and come back with a vengeance), it will not be possible if we decimate the environment, if we destroy our home. We depend as a species on a functioning biosphere.

THREAT TO CIVILIZATION

The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control have been preparing for the health risks of climate change that are already occurring and will escalate.

WHO website

The thin veneer of civilization will likely break down as food becomes scarce, infectious disease runs rampant and mass migrations of people — whose homelands will no longer support human life — spawn warfare and further destruction of the environment.

Social and political structures in place are insufficient to deal with current levels of disruption. We already see waves of refugees in Europe and the U.S. reacting to degraded environments from prolonged drought and competition for resources. And we can expect more. Both the U.S. and Europe are struggling to process the numbers of asylum seekers. Xenophobia and backlash against migrants are escalating worldwide.

What will happen when disruption is on the scale of a climatic apocalypse? We are an overpopulated speciesthat has outgrown the carrying capacity of the earth. Without our technology, mass communication and a worldwide distribution system of resources, we may revert to the savage.

EVIDENCE OF POLITICAL CORRUPTION/PARTY DYSFUNCTION

Campaign contributions from big oil impact whether our elected representatives will end fracking in this state. Gov. Brown has strong ties to fossil fuel companies and utilities that may have hampered his ability to take a stand on fossil fuel extraction in the state. Recently the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution stating they will no longer accept donations from fossil fuel companies.

“Fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change, fought the growth of clean renewable energy, and corrupted our political system,” the resolution reads. Individual Democratic Party candidates are not required to follow suit, but the example is set.

Now it is up to the people (us) to raise our voices to demand this same standard be upheld by candidates running for elected office and those already in elected office.

Where do you stand?

There is no neutral position. To do nothing is aiding the perpetrators of climate destruction. Inaction means you are siding with the polluters who are sentencing all life on this planet to extreme suffering.

Do something — and do it now! Join others who are willing to fight for climate justice and be part of the solution. The sacrifices we all must make will seem trivial if we are successful in saving our beautiful home and her inhabitants.

If you intend to fight for life, attend the September 8th Rise for Climate March, San Diego, contact Gov. Brown, and sign Brown’s Last Chance Petition.

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on August 17th, 2018.

About the Author

Stephanie Corkran, MA, is an anthropologist who works in medical research at UCSD and a volunteer of SanDiego350. She is a Coast Guard veteran who enforced environmental law and responded to oil and hazardous material spills, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She supports a vision of social justice that considers the needs of all life, human and non-human.

California Reaches for 100% Renewable Energy

By Laura Sisk-Hackworth, SanDiego350

A bill vital to the fight against climate change is coming up for a vote in the coming weeks. SB 100, the California Clean Energy Act of 2018, would increase current renewable energy targets in California, setting the state on track to achieve 100% renewable and carbon-free electrical energy by 2045.

New Goals

Climate change is no longer a distant problem for later generations to deal with; it affects us today. The two largest California wildfires in recorded history have been in the past two years, ocean temperatures on our coast just hit a new record, and a global heatwave set record-high temperatures around the world this summer.

Given the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on an increasingly unstable climate, we must reduce our emissions as quickly as possible. SB 100 will help California do just that. California’s greenhouse gas emissions from generation of electricity would decrease under SB 100 – by increasing the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS is the percent of electricity sales sourced from renewable energy. The following chart shows the rise in RPS standards between current goals and the goals set in SB 100.

Year RPS Current Goals RPS SB 100 Goals
2024 40% 44%
2027 45% 52%
2030 50% 60%

Chart data derived from the Bill Text.

SB 100 also states that carbon-free and renewable energy supply 100% of electricity sales to California customers and state agencies by December of 2045. Crucially, it mandates that the use of 100% renewable and carbon-free energy not increase carbon emissions in the rest of the western grid. There’s little use decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions if we cause the emissions of other states to increase.

These new goals are completely attainable. Solar and wind costs are falling. Storage of renewable energy can be accomplished with increasingly cheaper batteries and other energy storage innovations. Alternative energy purchasing entities, like Community Choice Aggregators, utilize high levels of renewables and save residents money. In 2016, California’s renewable content already reached 34% of the total energy sold, which exceeds current targets. So these new goals are within reach.

Better Planning

SB 100 will drive a better plan for California’s energy. SB 100 would require the three major California agencies that regulate energy – the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission – to include the new RPS in any relevant planning decisions. It would also require that, as our energy system changes, these agencies maintain the reliability and integrity of the grid, keep prices affordable for residents, and prepare periodic reports on the progress towards the goals to keep them accountable to the public.

Take Action!

SB 100 will make California cleaner, increase its leadership in the climate fight, and lessen dependency on the fossil fuel industry. However, there are some obstacles in the way of the passing of this important bill. Governor Brown might try to hold it hostage to his pet bill, AB 813, which would give California’s control over its energy grid to western, coal-dominated states. SB 100 was introduced in January 2017 and has been stalled for a year and a half. The bill will be brought to a vote before August 31. We can’t allow SB 100 to be held back again! Find your legislator here and tell them to support SB 100.

About the Author

Laura Sisk-Hackworth is a SanDiego 350 volunteer who has worked in environmental and research science fields. Originally from the Inland Empire, she became concerned about climate change in 6th grade and has since then worked to educated herself and others on the challenges a changing climate will present.

SB 237 Threatens Community Choice Energy

SB 237, authored by California State Senator Hertzberg (D-18), threatens to increase the use of fossil fuels in California by undercutting Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs. The bill would allow businesses to circumvent CCE providers and buy electricity directly from suppliers. These suppliers would be subject to the state’s required minimum on the renewable content of the electricity – whereas CCEs consistently exceed those minimums. Therefore, this bill would reduce the use of renewables, hurt renewable energy job growth, and likely bankrupt all current CCEs. This bill would effectively end existing CCE programs and halt their future expansion throughout California.

credit pixabay

Community Choice Energy allows communities, rather than the utility companies, to purchase electricity. CCE programs offer different packages with varying renewable content, wherein residents can choose the pricing that works best for them. This increases renewable use and decreases fossil fuel emissions, at cheaper prices than the electricity provided by utilities. The California Community Choice Association estimates 2018 bill savings to be at 99 million.

[Read more…]

California Should Not Risk Its Clean Energy Future on Extreme Strategies

California will soon decide whether to combine its electric grid management with western states dependent on coal mining and coal-based electricity. This massive change has been proposed in the form of Assembly Bill 813 and before that in Assembly Bill 726. If passed, either of those bills would provide an avenue for coal-fired electricity to gain access to the California market. This would make the transition to renewable energy even harder.

Unifying California’s grid operations with other western states would be a huge risk. Thankfully better options are available.

[Read more…]

La Mesa City Council Adopts Strong Climate Action Plan -Volunteers learn what grassroots organizing can accomplish

On March 13th, the City Council of La Mesa unanimously adopted a strong Climate Action Plan (CAP), with a goal of 100% clean energy. This victory came after three years of persistent advocacy and organizing efforts by SanDiego350 La Mesa volunteers and our allies.

The SanDiego350 La Mesa CAP campaign began with our attendance at a meeting of the Environmental Sustainability Commission in early 2015. This was where the first draft of the Plan was released. Along with Climate Action Campaign, we identified numerous deficiencies in the Plan – it lacked a goal of 100% clean energy and didn’t identify Community Choice Energy (CCE) as a strategy. In addition, the time frame of 2020 was too short, too many measures were identified as voluntary, and, for the most part, the plan was not enforceable. [Read more…]

San Diego’s Community Choice Energy Technical Study Stands Up Under Scrutiny

Conservative Assumptions Camouflage this New Energy Option’s Benefits

Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on October 27th 2017
For a primer on Community Choice Energy, see this San Diego Free Press article.

Credit: Pixabay

By Tyson Siegele / San Diego 350

San Diego struggles under the yoke of the highest electricity prices in the state. Meanwhile, thousands of cities across the United States have executed a plan to reduce their electricity prices, called Community Choice Energy. City officials hired an expert to determine if Community Choice would work here too. The technical study, also known as the feasibility study, found that San Diego would benefit from Community Choice, just like thousands of cities before it.

In July, when the City released the technical study, several publications such as the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Voice of San Diegohighlighted the main finding of the study: “San Diego could provide cheaper, greener energy than SDG&E.” Now, having had several months to digest the findings and compare them to Community Choice Energy programs across the state, additional conclusions can be teased out of the study.

SDG&E provides high-cost energy with average clean energy content

To understand the technical study better, one needs context. Stating that CCE can provide “cheaper, cleaner” energy does not allow us to adequately judge the program. How much cheaper? How much cleaner? The following table lists the percentages of *pollution-free electricity from various providers in California. [Read more…]

Climate Change Lawsuits and Coastal Plans — Where Does San Diego Stand?

By Stephanie Corkran / SanDiego350
Originally published by the San Diego Free Press on October 27th 2017

Image of San Diego skyline viewed from Coronado, but with Coronado under water from sea level rise

Coronado Island in 2300 if sea level rises by 12 feet; Nickolay Lamm/StorageFront.com, Data: Climate Central

San Francisco, Oakland, San Mateo, Marin and Imperial Beach are suing fossil fuel companies over the sea level rise and expected property damages to homes and businesses. The claims cite increased cost of infrastructure, emergency response, coastal flooding and extreme storms. Danger to health and the obstruction of free use of property and free passage of waterways and parks is included.

[Read more…]

2017 People’s Climate March

by Celeste Oram and Mark Hughes

2017 People's Climate March

People marching in San Diego. Photo by Greg Lowe.

On April 29th, 2017, SanDiego350 and partner organizations put on our local version of the People’s Climate March. This march was held last in 2014 and around 1,500 people participated. This year, the goal was to double that number, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the rally and march drew over 5,000 people. A success by any measure, and that was matched by the tens of thousands across the country and across the world who took part in the collective march. There is no doubt our demands on our leaders to respect science in general and climate science in particular, to get in step with nearly all the rest of the world, was heard. Perhaps our voices were even loud enough to break through the walls that separate some people’s alternate worlds from ours. This is critical, because while our collective knowledge makes us powerful, our individual ignorance makes us dangerous. And one day’s march, no matter how many people take part, will not solve the problem. Only sustained presence, sustained demands, will impel our leaders to act on our demands and on the needs of our planet and the life it sustains.

–Mark [Read more…]