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As California Burns, Climate Activists Call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to Stop #FuelingTheFlames

"If Newsom wants to be the health and environmental leader he so often claims to be, he needs to halt new fracking now, and begin immediately ramping down fossil fuel extraction in this state—period."

Gov. Gavin Newsom tours wildfire-ravaged Geyserville in the California Wine Country during the Kincaid Fire on October 25, 2019. (Photo: Karl Mondon/MediaNewsGroup/San Jose Mercury News/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tours a home destroyed in the Kincade Fire, Friday, October 25, 2019, in Geyserville. (Photo: Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/San Jose Mercury News/Getty Images)

Climate activists in California and beyond say Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to phase out gasoline-powered cars and his call to ban fracking ring hollow, and leading environmental groups have launched a grassroots campaign to hold the governor's feet to the flames that are burning millions of acres of the Golden State.

To that end, activists took to the state's smoky skies in a hot air balloon on Thursday to call attention to the growing climate crisis—and to call on Newsom to stop #FuelingTheFlames. That's the name of the campaign recently launched by Last Chance Alliance, a coalition of green groups who seek greater accountability and more meaningful action from the governor. 

The campaign action comes as record-breaking wildfires—the state is currently experiencing the first gigafire in its modern history—ravage millions of acres across California. 

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Newsom garnered worldwide accolades last month after releasing a plan to ban fracking by 2024. However, environmental activists say that's too late, and that the Democrat's polluting policies and actions speak louder than his eco-friendly words.

"Gov. Newsom is further retreating from his campaign promises by quietly and shamefully approving new fracking—in the middle of a pandemic, and when he thought no one was paying attention," Food & Water Action California director Alexandra Nagy said in a statement. "Newsom is proving to be another lapdog of the polluting oil industry, just like his predecessor Jerry Brown."

"Fracking poisons the air we breathe and the water we drink, making the permitting of this practice even more reprehensible during a global pandemic," Nagy said. "If Newsom wants to be the health and environmental leader he so often claims to be, he needs to halt new fracking now, and begin immediately ramping down fossil fuel extraction in this state—period."

"Gov. Newsom needs to think about the future generations, think of his own children and the world he wants to leave behind and ban fracking now," she added.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, concurred, telling KPBS that the governor "can't claim climate leadership while handing out permits to oil companies to drill and frack." 

Newsom is feeling the heat in recent weeks, as Siegel's group announced late last month that it plans to sue his administration over permitting of 1,500 oil and gas wells this year without the proper environmental reviews. The plaintiffs say this is illegal. 

A ProPublica and Palm Springs Desert Sun investigation published in September found that fossil fuel corporations have made millions of dollars selling oil leaked from illegal spills with near-impunity from business-friendly regulators.

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