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Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna Call on Gov. Jerry Brown to Be 'Bold' and Halt All New Fossil Fuel Projects in California

The lawmakers' letter also demands a "just and equitable transition" that "would protect workers, communities, and economies."

California Gov. Jerry Brown

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat and self-identified climate leader, is under pressure from members of Congress who represent the state to stop issuing permits for fossil fuel projects. (Photo: Jerry Brown/Facebook)

Citing threats to human health and the planet, two progressive members of Congress who represent California are calling on Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown—who considers himself a climate leader—to set a new global standard and end fossil fuel extraction across the state.

"We believe that transformative climate leadership must include bold action on the production side of fossil fuels."
—Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna

In a letter on Wednesday first reported by The Hill, Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna urged Brown to cease permitting for new oil and gas projects, and to implement a "just and equitable transition" to 100 percent renewable energy that "would protect workers, communities, and economies."

"We believe that transformative climate leadership must include bold action on the production side of fossil fuels," the letter declares. "Ending the issuance of new permits for fossil fuel development and infrastructure will establish the standard for climate policy worldwide."

While President Donald Trump announced last year that he was ditching the Paris agreement—which aims to limit global temperature rise within this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius above per-industrial levels—Brown has vowed to keep his state engaged in the accord and pledged his dedication to transitioning to renewable energy.

"Corporate interests continue to undermine our nation's leadership in the global fight against climate change. California will need to lead the way," the letter continues, noting particular threats that fossil fuels pose to the state's residents. "Climate change resulting from the continued development of oil and gas would exacerbate drought conditions, wildfires, and flooding."

Lee and Khanna's pressure on Brown comes as California battles ferocious wildfires, which scientists say are made worse by the global climate crisis and will only get more extreme as long as the international community burns fossil fuels that produce planet-warming emissions. Citing estimates (pdf) from the Union of Concern Scientists, the letter notes that about 33,000 peoples' homes in the San Francisco Bay Area could face "chronic inundation from sea level rise" within the next few decades.

Pointing out that "California is home to some of the country's most polluted air basins," the letter also acknowledges how pollution from existing oil and gas field operations and refinery facilities contributes to the "array of air quality related health problems that hurt our most overburdened communities."

"We regularly hear from constituents about the tremendous burdens that fossil fuel production places on our communities," the letter states, "especially low-income communities and communities of color."
—Lee and Khanna

"We regularly hear from constituents about the tremendous burdens that fossil fuel production places on our communities," the letter states, "especially low-income communities and communities of color."

The lawmakers' letter features the same demands that more than 750 environmental, health, justice, faith, labor, community, and consumer groups outlined in an open letter (pdf) to Brown in April.

Those organizations—including 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace—have launched a campaign called Brown's Last Chance, which is promoting a petition that urges the governor to "find the courage and imagination to set a higher standard for global climate leadership."

Both letters come ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit that Brown will host in San Francisco in September. In a video promoting the summit, Brown says, "It's up to you and it's up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together to roll back the forces of carbonization and join together to combat the existential threat of climate change."

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