Newsom Fights Oil Industry To Stiffen California’s Climate Targets

A five-point legislative proposal unveiled this week by California Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for the state’s climate and energy goals to be bolstered and threatens to increase the governor’s battle with the state’s powerful oil industry.

Lawmakers are encouraged to set more stringent goals to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and to enhance the usage of renewable energy sources, as laid out in the plan.

Newsom also called for a new law that would set health and safety buffer zones around new oil and gas wells, something his administration is working to implement through the state’s slow-moving regulatory process.

Anthony York, a spokesman for Newsom, said that with just three weeks left in the legislative session, the end of the year allows the governor to push through climate legislation.

“The greater point is merely the nature of the climate catastrophe,” York stated. Things have worsened. When we have wildfires and drought, we can see how it affects our ability to get enough energy. Now is the proper time, according to the governor.

As much as it is an effort to hit major oil firms, Newsom’s push is an attempt to galvanize Democrats in the statehouse to combat climate change.

According to a spokesperson for Western States Petroleum Assn., the governor’s plan is worrisome in its general outline.

We can’t afford to let prohibitions, mandates, and last-minute legislation that could have a significant impact on climate and energy policy implement us added Slagle. “Based on what we’ve seen, these will be prohibitively expensive for families in California. A lot of employees and towns are going to be devastated, and it’s going to have a major impact on our economy.”

Last month, Newsom sponsored commercials in Florida comparing the state’s tight regulations on abortion rights and education to “the freedom of expression, freedom to choose, freedom from hate, and the freedom to love” in the state of California. It fueled speculation about Newsom’s presidential aspirations and enhanced the governor’s image as a Democratic leader pushing back against the Republican Party outside of California through the use of the spots.

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In response to Newsom’s climate initiatives, the Oil and Gas Association of Florida released a series of advertisements in the Sunshine State warning of the high costs.

For every gallon of gas we buy, we pay $1.65 more than you, according to a video commercial that appeared in the Miami market. Compared to yours, our electricity costs are twice as much.” Gavin Newsom is putting an end to oil production in California and prohibiting the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles. Gavin Newsom’s aspirations are out of reach for the state of California. “Will Florida be able to?”

Newsom Fights Oil Industry To Stiffen California's Climate Targets

In a print ad in the Miami Herald, the group re-iterated many of the same points.

We’ve been attempting to discuss the expense of these programs and the effects of prohibitions and requirements with him,” Slagle added. When we couldn’t get him to pay attention in California, we turned to Florida, where he had a strong interest.

Slagle disputed the notion that the $100,000 the organization spent on advertising backfired in light of the governor’s last-minute request for legislation on climate change and energy.

It’s not York’s opinion that the industry organization’s commercials influenced his decision to take action; rather, he said the fight with the group is “part and piece.”

Companies making multibillion-dollar profits while “ordinary Californians are hurting” should not be surprised by their response, York said.

Last week, Newsom made a rare appearance at Democratic caucus sessions in the California Senate and Assembly, where he addressed the rising climate problem and the need for further legislation. Lawmakers who responded to Newsom’s call for a speedy three-week turnaround to adopt the measures were warned that history would judge their actions.

Both Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) committed to working closely with Gov. Jerry Brown in the coming weeks to address climate change.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a statement saying, “The Assembly appreciates the governor’s strong stance in favor of ambitious climate action, especially as it parallels initiatives the Assembly has made in previous years.”

This weekend’s Senate vote on a climate bill will make it easier for Californians to buy or lease rooftop solar panels, electric cars, and electric heat pumps, according to the governor’s senior climate advisor, Lauren Sanchez.

A “windfall of funding” has Sanchez and his colleagues “excited,” he said. It’s a win-win situation for California.

Many of the tenets of Newsom’s climate policy have already been put into motion via executive orders or directives to his administration.

Gov. Rick Scott has called on lawmakers to enact legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, beyond the current 40 percent cutoff.

The governor, in a letter to the head of the California Air Resources Board last month, stated his desire for the Legislature to adopt a deadline of 2045 for the state to achieve carbon neutrality. Former Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100 into law in 2018, setting a goal of achieving 100% renewable electricity sales in California by 2045. Interim goals of 90% and 95% by 2035 and 2020, respectively, are proposed by Newsom.

It’s part of his appeal to get legislation passed mandating 3,200-foot setbacks for new oil and gas wells, along with tighter pollution controls on existing wells, both of which his department was asked to look into last year under state rules.

Environmental justice advocates are concerned that carbon removal programs will allow fossil fuel plants to continue polluting low-income communities of color, and Newsom’s proposal would direct California’s Air Resources Board to come up with an approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that minimizes the impact on these communities.

Since assuming office, Newsom has been under pressure from major environmental groups to stop new oil and gas drilling and phase out fossil fuel extraction in California. To be fair to oil employees and California’s towns and counties that are economically dependent upon this industry, the Democratic governor has taken a more balanced approach.

The director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, Kassie Siegel, emphasized the importance of advancing the 2030 emissions reduction goal and protecting communities from oil drilling.

Siegel argued that it was beneficial to the state. I think that it’s beneficial for the legislature. The governor will benefit from it. It’s a win-win situation. Because it’s in everyone’s best interest to do so.”

Similar efforts by progressive legislators to advance the state’s climate agenda have been rejected by oil firms and trade unions representing workers in the industry.

State Senators killed a bill introduced by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates) to create oil well buffer zones.

Two years in a row, Sen. Henry Stern’s SB 582, which in its strongest form would have compelled the state to cut greenhouse gases to 80% below 1990 levels by 2030 and established a target to reach net negative emissions by 2035, failed to pass the Senate.

Newsom sat on the sidelines as environmentalists and labor unions waged war in the state legislature.

Others in the state legislature have questioned why the governor has decided to join the fight at this time, given his national profile and his public battle with the oil sector. Others disagree, stating that it doesn’t matter why.

A climate action plan would not have been considered if the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had not started it. To change that, the governor will have to step up and lean in. “A lot of the critical parts in the governor’s agenda here have failed in our house.

“The governor is all in,” York added.

York predicted that he would be in the lead. “This is the legislative agenda that he intends to get through in the coming weeks.”

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