The organizations signing this letter welcome Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20, concerning oil drilling and site remediation.

Dear Governor Newsom:

(cc: Wade Crowfoot, Secretary for Natural Resources; Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary for Environmental Protection, David Shabazian, Director, Dept. of Conservation; Uduak-Joe Ntuk, State Oil and Gas Supervisor, CalGEM; Kate Gordon, Director, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research

The organizations signing this letter welcome your Executive Order N-79-20, concerning oil drilling and site remediation. We look forward to working with you, your executive agencies, and the legislature to realize and implement the policies this order requires.

We echo your strong statement of intent to move our state away from fossil fuels—oil, specifically—and toward a low-carbon future.

At the same time, we eagerly await a subsequent Order to N-79-20, which is sorely needed to address fossil gas in the same comprehensive way.

Please consider a few of our priorities, and some suggestions:

  1. Similar to your order that regulatory agencies “repurpose and transition” oil production facilities in the state, we also need to quickly ramp down, and ultimately eliminate, the production, storage, transport, and use of fossil gas, with its attendant methane releases.
    1. Gas storage facilities near residential neighborhoods, such as Aliso Canyon and Playa del Rey, must be decommissioned in the near term.
    2. The fracking ban you ask the Legislature to mandate in law must extend to fracked gas, not just oil. As you know, passage of such a ban will require all-in support from you and all affected agencies as well as legislators. We learned from the defeat of AB 345 in committee this year, a bill banning fracking will need emphatic public support from you, the Department of Conservation, and CalGEM.
    3. While electrifying transportation is critical, building electrification is also essential. We look forward to an Executive Order that will direct the California Energy Commission to revise the state building code to eliminate fossil gas hookups in new construction and initiate planning for retrofit of existing buildings, with subsidies and incentives for rapid electrification in lower-income communities.
      1. San José, San Francisco, and 37 other cities and two counties in California have passed Reach Codes that limit fossil gas in most new construction. PG&E has also come out in favor of eliminating gas in new construction. The state is ready now for such an Executive Order, in part because it’s less expensive to build without installing both electric and gas utilities.
      2. If there is a way, based on the climate emergency the state faces, to revise the building code before the 2023 effective date for the next scheduled update, we will actively support that change.
    4. Environmental justice and climate action groups around the state prioritized AB 345 in 2020. This bill would have required CalGEM to consider 2500 ft. buffers between oil or gas operations and homes, schools, parks and other places where children are present. The communities suffering severe public health effects from these sources of pollution need you to be specific in your instructions to CalGEM that the agency assure effective public health buffers. We believe a 2500 ft. buffer is necessary to protect “communities and workers from the impacts of oil extraction.”
    5. We believe the timelines for action you set out in N-79-20 are reasonable, but California needs to get to decarbonization even faster. We support acceleration of the target dates you set for achieving zero emission passenger cars and trucks; medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, trucks, and buses; drayage trucks; and off-road vehicles and equipment. In each case we urge you to set interim benchmark targets so that regulators and the public can evaluate progress and set stretch goals.
    6. Since the actions in your order work together to accelerate electrification, we will need to generate more clean electricity sooner. The SB 100 target date for 100 percent clean electricity in California must be moved up to 2035.
      1. Moving up the target date will require strong, specific policies that increase distributed renewable generation expeditiously and incentivize both large-scale battery storage and vehicle-to-grid technology.
      2. 2035 conforms to our future President Biden’s climate plan. California must not lag behind federal goals.
    7. Finally, it is clear to all that significant budget deficits are likely to continue for at least a few years—the same years when we need urgently to be funding the programs you demand and investing in the just transition to a de-carbonized economy. We need new revenue sources to expedite the transition away from gasoline cars and fossil-gas powered buildings and aid Californians through that transition. To that end we urge you to work with the legislature to develop new revenue streams dedicated to addressing climate change and supporting the just transition.
      1. Can California enact an oil severance tax? We believe this is the year to do so. The fossil fuel industry has long profited from selling the state’s underground energy resources. The industry must own up to its responsibility and use a portion of the proceeds from selling these resources to pay for the transition to a renewable energy economy.
        1. All of the revenues from an oil severance tax must go to renewable energy development and infrastructure, following a plan that will sunset when the transition to clean energy sources is complete. This will front-load benefits to the just transition and eliminate the danger of public good enterprises becoming “addicted” to this revenue source.
      2. The deficit requires that we tap into other potential revenue sources linked to fossil fuel use and emissions, while ensuring that new taxes do not place undue burdens on low-income residents. The state might consider, for example, higher excise taxes on late model, low-mileage gasoline-powered vehicles (and/or lower taxes on EVs); increased airport fees; and significant annual fees on idle or unremediated oil and gas well sites.
      3. California’s cap and trade program must be reformed to be a more just and effective mechanism that will achieve emissions reduction on an expedited schedule, while also protecting communities from pollution. A realistic, science-based social cost of carbon must be used in setting any carbon price. Revising cap and trade will require your active participation and support:
        1. The price of allowances must increase more rapidly, and approach $300 per ton by 2030 or earlier. (see reference linked above)
        2. Regulators at all levels must be allowed to limit local pollution, including CO2 .
  • We must assure support and retraining of oil and gas workers through the transition to renewable energy.
  1. We urge you to ask the Attorney General to join several California municipalities and a growing number of other states in initiating legal action against oil companies, suing for both consumer fraud and climate harms. Municipal governments will never have enough money to mitigate and adapt to climate damage; consequently the polluters must be held accountable for the harms they have caused for our people and our communities.

The world greeted your Executive Order with relief, glad to see the fifth largest economy on the planet take on climate change directly when our national government has removed itself from the conversation. Your order gives heart to nations struggling with their Paris commitments while also suffering under a pandemic. Here at home California is once again offering a lead that other states can, and will, follow.

Executive Order N-79-20 is a great first step toward the action we need. Please know that we support you and will urge you to do even more to lead our state in effective, timely, and just climate action. We will be happy to meet with you or your staff to discuss these ideas, and learn how we can be most helpful in expediting the changes our state so desperately needs.

Written by 350 Silicon Valley Legislation Team Steering Committee