Angry Activists Plan To Crash Jerry Brown’s SF Climate Summit
By Matier & Ross, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
September 9, 2018
Well-financed and well-organized eco-activists are planning to put the squeeze on Gov. Jerry Brown during his big San Francisco climate change conference this week — and mass demonstrations and civil disobedience are on the agenda.
The Global Climate Action Summit at Moscone Center is expected to draw 4,500 delegates from around the world, everyone from former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State John Kerry to ’70s punk rocker Patti Smith.
Brown convened the three-day summit, and the star-studded lineup is seen as a testimonial to his crusade to keep California at the forefront of the fight against climate change. But a large coalition of activist groups says that while Brown has pushed for global greenhouse gas reductions, he has done little to curb polluting oil and gas drilling in his own state.
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, predicted a “a loud, diverse and impressive turnout” of activists, who have been “talking, planning and having training in nonviolent civil disobedience” for months.
The termed-out governor “has done some fabulous things as far as addressing the use of fossil fuel,” Leonard said. But “we are at risk of enshrining the model that you can be perceived as a climate leader even as you permit new oil and gas drilling wells.”
Just to make sure their message gets national attention, the progressive group Consumer Watchdog bought airtime on CNN and MSNBC for a 30-second spot featuring a 9-year-old girl calling out the governor as “cruel and heartless” for allowing kids to live near polluting oil and gas rigs.
The group has also put up a billboard in downtown San Francisco near the approach to the Bay Bridge, featuring the same African American girl near an oil derrick with the tagline, “Jerry Brown’s Climate Legacy.”
“We have tried everything, and if children can’t break through to the governor, then the world should know that he doesn’t care about young children who are having health problems living in the shadow of oil wells,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
Activists point to 20,000 new oil and gas exploration permits issued on Brown’s watch, including 238 for offshore state waters. Thousands of other state and federal offshore leases that predate Brown’s administration remain on the books.
Consumer Watchdog and other groups also point out that Brown has taken $9.8 million in fossil fuel industry money for his various campaigns, causes and initiatives since he began running for governor in 2009.
In contrast, they note that other top California Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, have pulled the plug on such donations.
About 800 environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, Californians Against Fracking, Breast Cancer Action and Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, have signed on in support of the “Brown’s Last Chance” website campaign. It calls on the governor to commit the state to a policy of “no new fossil fuels and ... real action on climate change and healthier communities.”
Greenpeace’s Leonard laid out the activists’ three key demands of Brown:
•Hit the brakes on new oil and gas drilling permits.
•Impose a half-mile buffer zone between oil rigs and schools and residences.
•Lay out a long-term plan to end fossil fuel production in the state.
Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said his boss is doing what he can to reduce California’s use of fossil fuels, but that “charting a real path forward requires much more than slogans and PR campaigns.”
He pointed to Brown’s commitment to invest billions in zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure, produce half of California’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 and strengthen the state’s oversight of oil and gas production.
“Clearly the world needs to curb its use of oil, and the phaseout is already under way in California,” Westrup said. He noted that oil production in the state has dropped 56 percent over the past three decades.
“There’s a reason the White House and fossil fuel companies fight California on almost a daily basis,” Westrup said. “No jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere is doing more on climate.”
Leonard says Brown has been willing to talk. The two had a 2½-hour sit-down in April to go over their differences, but she said that “there are no answers he gave us that will satisfy us.”
“This is his moment to be a history-making, climate change transformative leader,” Leonard said. “We are ready to protest him or celebrate him — it’s up to him.”
San Francisco police say they have been meeting with people organizing protests against Brown and will be ready for anything that happens inside or outside the convention hall.
Several cops, meanwhile, have volunteered to work at the conference on “10-B” overtime shifts — meaning their OT will be covered by the summit’s sponsors, which include Facebook, Google and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation.
“San Francisco is no stranger to demonstrations,” said Officer Grace Gatpandan, a police spokeswoman. “We hope it’s nonviolent and peaceful, and we are going to facilitate people’s First Amendment rights to say what they want and to have the platform.”
But just to be safe, Gatpandan said, the department has canceled all days off during the Wednesday-through-Friday gathering.
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call 415-777-8815, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @matierandross