The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity,
Aradhna Tripati, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA,
Daniel Kammen, Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley,

Top Scientists: California Must End Neighborhood Oil Drilling, New Fossil Fuel Permits

Urgent Action Needed to Protect Communities, Climate


More than 100 scientists sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom today urging him to stop new oil and gas permit approvals, especially in and near neighborhoods. In the midst of a climate and public health crisis, California regulators have approved more than 1,000 new oil and gas permits this year — more than 600 of them within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and other sensitive sites.

The letter is signed by 104 scientists including original signatories Robert Bullard, Michael Mann and Peter Kalmus, and leading California scientists Aradhna Tripati, Manuel Pastor, Bhavna Shamasunder, Mijin Cha and Rebecca Hernandez.

The scientists commended Newsom for signing a law creating a 3,200-foot health-protection buffer between oil drilling and communities, but they urged him to use his existing authority to stop permitting new wells while the law is delayed by an oil industry-backed referendum.

“Gov. Newsom has the power to end the neighborhood oil drilling that is poisoning communities of color first and worst,” said Aradhna Tripati, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We need him to act now to stop drilling near where people live, work and play to protect Californians on the frontlines of deadly fossil fuel pollution.”

The letter emphasizes that oil and gas wells and other fossil fuel infrastructure are concentrated in communities of color, putting residents at risk of severe health harms and undermining the state’s environmental justice goals. It comes as dozens of oil wells were found to be leaking methane in Central California — many at explosive levels.

The letter also calls on the governor to stop issuing permits for new oil and gas extraction and infrastructure to avert climate catastrophe, in line with dire warnings from hundreds of scientists in the latest United Nations climate report and calls from the International Energy Agency. It calls on Newsom to speed an equitable, clean, renewable energy buildout.

“There’s no time for complacency when oil and gas are fueling California’s climate chaos,” said Daniel Kammen, Ph.D., Lau Distinguished Professor of Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley and a letter signatory. “Gov. Newsom should show the world what climate leadership looks like by halting new oil and gas approvals and ramping up rooftop solar and local storage that will protect communities and the climate.”

The scientists further urge the administration to reject fossil fuel industry delay tactics like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen made from fossil fuels, and carbon offsets that perpetuate fossil fuel extraction and hinder the needed transition to renewable energy.

“Scientists are imploring Gov. Newsom to build on his climate action and protect Californians from harmful oil and gas drilling and fossil-fueled climate chaos,” said Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We have all the evidence we need to end the dirty fossil fuel era in California. Now’s the time for urgent action.”

Other prominent scientist signatories on the letter include Terry Root, Sandra Steingraber, Karen Holl, Kathleen McAfee, Peter Gleick, William Ripple, Anthony Ingraffea, and Lara Hansen.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252