By Ramona du Houx

July 16, 2020

In this historic moment of reckoning for the energy future of America, a group called the Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA) joined indigenous and front-lines organizers in celebrating victories over unjust and exploitative pipelines.

According to EOPCA, with the tide of public opinion clearly opposed to carbon emissions and the oil industry’s devastating reevaluations the vise-like grip of the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying influence has begun to weaken.

“We need to rid ourselves of the chokehold fossil fuel corporations have on our economy and transition to a safer, more equitable California with 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, we have the power to do this. Now we need the political will,” said Elected Officials to Protect California Steering Committee Member and San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon. “We can create hundreds of thousands of jobs with training for people whose employment won’t be coming back because of the pandemic. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.”

Recently the 8 billion dollar Atlantic Coast Pipeline was abruptly canceled after years of pressure from indigenous groups and organizers. Dominion, the principal corporation behind the exploitative fracked-gas pipeline, jettisoned future projects like it, scrambling to distance itself from natural gas. The Dakota Access Pipeline, whose unjust path violated Native sovereignty, threatened public health, and was met with sweeping protest by Indigenous peoples like the Standing Rock Sioux, was handed a devastating ruling requiring it to run dry of oil by next month. A bid to restart construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline was utterly shut down.

In light of these failures, the changing energy landscape, and the fact that fossil fuel pipelines cause an explosion every 11 days and a fatality every 26 days in America, analysis by Bloomberg finds that “U.S. pipelines are becoming increasingly unbuildable.”

Worldwide, the downward spiral of fossil fuels worsened, as giants Shell and BP wrote off $40 billion of their assets as unrecoverable, a far cry from a once-militant optimism envisioning endless growth. 

Nationally, over 410 EOPA officials have signed a National Climate Justice Sign-on Letter demanding a just transition.

“Since the Brown Administration,  EOPCA has pushed for transparency, accountability, and an energy regime which protects our public health. Now is the moment to propel our state forward and ensure the future our children deserve. Fracking has no future — and a horrific past and present, generating serious health problems, especially for minority communities. It’s killing Californians, said EOPCA.

Recently, the financial and regulatory coronavirus relief from the Federal government gave oil companies big boons — despite the horrible irony that these polluting industries may have contributed to a higher death rate from the virus. 

“The failing fossil fuel industry that is driving catastrophic climate change has received $1.9 billion in bailouts with public money. It has to stop,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, former Culver City Mayor, and current council member. “It’s time to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all Californians — not corporations. Let’s start by ending fracking. All the governor needs to do is sign an executive order.”

“We’ve urged Governor Newsom in a letter 310 + of us signed to: 1)  End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, 2) Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer zone to protect public health and address the severe environmental injustice of production in low-income communities and communities of color, and 3) Commit the state to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We demand action.”

 Two thirds of Americans believe current steps to combat the climate crisis or to protect our lands and waters are insufficient. The concurrent crises of COVID-19, mass unemployment, and racial justice uprisings are forcing the nation to reckon with the status quo. Elected Officials To Protect America (EOPA) rejects returning to a normal that perpetuities injustices.

But in the midst of it all Governor Newsom continues to issue new fracking permits in California and the Trump administration moved to open massive tracts of Alaskan reserves to drilling.

EOPCA stated they are disappointed with Newsom’s failure to keep his promise to phase out fossil fuels.

“We’ve been imagining America’s bold future free from fossil fuel dependence since our beginning. EOPCA members have united to demand an end to fossil fuels’ vicious cycle of exploitation and dependence. Governor Newsom must seize the chance to lead,” stated the EOPCA press release. “The evidence is mounting that investment in fossil fuels is a bad deal fiscally as well as a bad deal for the planet.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline which was newly approved by the Supreme Court, would have clearcut and blasted through precious, vulnerable landscapes, including Black, low-income, and indigenous communities, national forests, and 34 crossings of the iconic Appalachian Trail — is dead.

The pipeline even drew high-profile opponents such as the Reverend William Barber II, National Board Member of the NAACP and former Vice President Al Gore, who called the whole affair a “reckless, racist rip-off.”

More major pipeline verdicts followed swiftly on the heels of the ACP’s cancellation. The Dakota Access Pipeline, a sprawling, leaking, affront to native sovereignty, was at last brought to a grinding halt. Courts ruled that it violated environmental standards, in a massive blow for the industry and a long-overdue victory for the Indigenous water defenders who have been on the front lines opposing it for years. The Keystone XL Pipeline, long stalled because of its woefully inadequate environmental protections, was dealt another blow despite the Trump Administration’s attempt to bolster it.

“We take these pipeline victories as a call to further action. No longer will we accept this entrenched and systemic propping-up of the energy status quo.  In the throes of crisis, a chorus of experts, scientists, policy-makers and economists alike, are calling for a transformation of our world,” wrote EOPCA.

Where the ACP died, state legislatures are turning to clean and plentiful energy from offshore windfarms, where despite COVID-19, global investments have quadrupled this year. Where DAPL will soon sit, silent and empty, the US’ massive solar potential could light the western skies.

“Phasing out fossil fuel reliance is essential. With today’s failing industry and the urgent climate crisis, what once was easy money from oil and gas is now a massive liability,” added said Meghan Sahli-Wells. “The evidence is clear and only growing.  To safeguard our future, we must leave the failure and injustice of the state’s dependency on the fossil fuel industry behind.”

The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.