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We, as people of faith, who are deeply committed to serving the needs of our communities, all the living, and generations yet to come, write to you with our concerns about the effects of global warming and fossil fuel pollution, confident that you share those concerns.
We implore you to take immediate action to protect Creation and the life on which we all depend by implementing the following before you leave office:
• Commit California to no new permits for oil and gas extraction as well as no new infrastructure for fossil fuels or petrochemical projects in California.
• Implement a managed decline of all fossil fuel extraction, starting with a 2,500-foot human health buffer zone around all occupied residential/commercial structures, public parks, and farms to protect public health and our most vulnerable communities.
• Create a just transition off of fossil fuels and commit the state to 100% clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and areas that are already suffering the most from the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction and consumption.
California is currently one of the only oil producing states with no setback limits on oil and gas drilling, allowing operations to take place near homes, schools and other sensitive receptors. Studies like the California Council on Science and Technology report have made clear recommendations to protect public health by enacting setbacks.
You have declared, “The problem…is us.” -- “It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort…. It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.” After meeting with Pope Francis, you said saving our biosphere requires “courage and imagination.” Heartened by these words, we encourage you to take the actions listed above.
This past November, at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, you reaffirmed your commitment to our planet’s health and well-being, a very positive step. In your state of the state address, you announced a goal to put five million electric cars on the state’s roads by 2030. This is a crucial effort that we support.
At the same time, both offshore and onshore oil drilling have expanded in recent years. This undermines the advancement of cleaner vehicles as it continues to prop up the supply of “cheap” oil. In addition, a growing body of evidence links oil and gas extraction and consumption to serious health illnesses including asthma, congenital heart disease, preterm birth and birth defects, and cancer. These impacts are elevated for those living near oil operations.
Pope Francis recently called for a new form of leadership. He stated, "Let this be seen as the greatest leadership opportunity of all, one that can make a lasting difference for the human family, and one that can appeal to your boldest dreams and ideas.” We urge you to take this great leadership opportunity.
As people rooted in faith, we are called to serve the most vulnerable among us. Whether it’s our sisters and brothers in Kern County, who experience adverse health impacts from living next to fracking operations, or our sisters and brothers in Los Angeles, who complain of strange odors emanating from drilling sites which are often followed by headaches and breathing difficulties, these Californians are in need of protections from drilling practices.
As clergy and lay leaders, we feel we must speak out on the injustices in our midst. We are aware that, while concurrent studies have revealed serious health effects stemming from these practices, permits for fracking, neighborhood drilling, and other forms of dangerous oil extraction continue to be issued. We pray passionately that you will stand up to the worst polluters and put a stop to the toxic impacts they are having on our communities. As you have mentioned numerous times on the global stage, there is no state in the country better equipped to address this problem than California.
We ask you to align yourself with Pope Francis in his call for bold leadership. by putting our state on track to end fossil fuel dependence. This action will not only help protect the health and safety of 39 million Californians, but also ensure a more equitable and healthy future for billions of people around the world. Your leadership on climate change will encourage countless others to take bold and necessary action as well. This, we pray, will be your legacy.