By Dan Bacher, RED GREEN & BLUE
December 10, 2020
On Sunday, December 6, President-elect Biden’s transition team announced that it would be tapping California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services, according to a press release from the Last Chance Alliance. Uniting more than 750 public health, environmental justice, climate, and labor organizations, the group urged Governor Gavin Newsom to end fossil fuel extraction across California and build a “just climate future where every community can thrive.”
“Should Becerra be confirmed by the Senate, Governor Newsom faces the opportunity to fill both his position and the seat in the US Senate left vacant by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” the alliance stated.
“While California has long paved the way for progressive national policy, Governor Newsom has fallen shamefully short of offering even basic health protections to the millions of Californians who live on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and production.”
Climate and Environmental Justice advocates, along with Last Chance Alliance, are urging Newsom to use this historic wave of new appointments to show his commitment to racial justice and the climate for both California and the nation:
“President-elect Joe Biden has named climate as a top priority with many of his cabinet appointments. Governor Newsom, you now have a chance to improve your mediocre record and make addressing the climate crisis and protecting frontline communities a matter of greatest importance during your administration. At this critical time, we must appoint climate leaders with a demonstrated commitment to protecting the people most harmed by the fossil fuel industry, as well as ushering in a just transition away from fossil fuels. There’s no shortage of qualified candidates who, if nominated, would prioritize climate justice.
Local, state and federally elected officials like Representative Nanette Barragán and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell are already committed to protecting people from these reckless polluters. We urge you to immediately nominate climate justice leaders to the Senate and the role of state Attorney General, and any other open positions.”
Since January 2019, Governor Newsom’s regulators have approved a total of 7,625 total oil and gas drilling permits, according to updated data from Consumer Watchdog and the Fractracker Alliance at the website.
In 2020 to date, CalGEM has approved 3,344 permits, including 1,884 new permits and 1,460 oil well rework permits. New permits approved during the first nine months of 2020 rose 160%, while new wells actually drilled plummeted, the groups found.
”New data provided by the state shows that despite the thousands of new permits issued by the Newsom Administration only 60 new wells were actually drilled in the first three quarters of 2020 – a 74% decrease over the same period in 2019 when 228 new wells were drilled,” the groups reported.
Just days after California oil and gas regulators approved eight more fracking permits for Chevron this year, the California Department of Finance released an audit detailing repeated violations of the state’s oil and gas regulations
The 16-day report published on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend reveals that the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, repeatedly skipped required reviews when approving hundreds of oil and gas wells last year.
Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.