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Central Coast elected officials call on governor to stop new oil and gas drilling

Flickr/Ben Klocek
More than 100 California elected officials have sent a letter to the governor asking him to stop new oil and gas drilling

More than 100 local elected officials across California sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown this week calling for a statewide plan “to phase out oil and gas drilling.” The letter included names of some recognizable Central Coast public figures.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was on the list, as was most of the San Luis Obispo City Council, minus Carlyn Christianson.

“The City of San Luis Obispo is committed to bold climate action, and we need the state's support to swiftly move beyond fossil fuel production and create local equitable jobs in the renewable energy economy,” Harmon said in a statement. “Climate change impacts us locally, including increased drought, flooding and fires, but also globally. We are deeply concerned that impacts are disproportionately high in underserved communities throughout the state and the globe.”

Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and Monterey Councilmember Alan Haffa also signed the letter.

“We’re saying no new drilling,” Jonathan Abboud said. Abboud is the vice president of the Santa Barbara Community College District, and also signed the letter. “And we’re saying we need to be investing in other energy sources that will produce energy to replace it, and to build our new energy economy now.”

Abboud was the only elected official in Santa Barbara County to sign the letter, but he says he’s not alone in caring about this issue.

“We have people like Das Williams and Joan Hartmann on our County Board of Supervisors who have been advocates on this front for years. I think maybe the letter might not have made it to them in time for them to consider and sign.”

The letter urged Governor Brown to, “take the first step by halting permits for new fossil fuel projects, prohibiting drilling within 2,500 feet of homes and vulnerable areas and committing the state to 100 percent renewable energy.”

When asked about the feasibility of having an economy in California that is not dependent on oil and gas production, Abboud said, “I think it’s possible to have any economy we want to have. If we take bold action and have a long-term vision in mind, we can get to the economy we want. I think the best economy to have is one that is free from fossil fuels.”

The letter also cited a recent survey from Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) where 64 percent of respondents said they supported, “phasing out oil and gas drilling within half a mile of homes, schools and other vulnerable sites.”

The letter continued, “drilling often occurs disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color who already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation.”

KCBX reached out to the governor for comment and a representative forwarded a quote from a February 2015 conversation between Governor Brown and former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell that the governor's office said still reflects his perspective today:

“California has the most imaginative and aggressive and integrated strategy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere. And that my goal of reducing petroleum usage up to 50 percent – or as close as we can get – renewable energy at 50 percent and making our existing buildings 50 percent more efficient and making our new buildings very quickly zero net energy buildings. There is no place that is doing all of that. Now that doesn’t mean we’re doing everything, but I would say that as long as Californians are going to drive 332 billion miles a year and consume 14 billion gallons of gasoline and 4 billion gallons of diesel – 4 billion gallons of that – we’re going to have to have a plan that is comprehensive, that is stuck to and implemented consistently over time and that deals with all the issues and not just a subset. Because as long as these cars are moving and as we speak protesters and non-protesters are burning up gasoline that is being shipped from Iraq, from Russia, from Venezuela and all sorts of other places and coming in on trains, so whatever we don’t do here we are going to get from somewhere else until we can get that moratorium on driving, which I haven’t heard proposed yet by anybody.”