Local Advocacy Groups Shut Down California Public Utilities Commission Hearing over PG&E’s Culpability in Northern California Wildfires

November 29, 2018

Press Release

For Immediate Release

MEDIA CONTACT:

Vanessa, (415) 290-3841, msvanessabutterworth@gmail.com

Photos and video available here: bit.ly/nopgebailoutphotos

Online petition and statement can be found here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/no-pge-bailout

Local Advocacy Groups Shut Down California Public Utilities Commission Hearing over PG&E’s Culpability in Northern California Wildfires

San Francisco, CA: A coalition of local Bay Area groups shut down the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) public hearing on PG&E’s safety culture today to call for the privately-owned utility to take complete financial responsibility for all fires caused by its negligence and contributions to climate change.

Overwhelming evidence shows that PG&E is solely responsible for starting the recent “Camp Fire”, one of the deadliest and most destructive fires in California history. State investigators have also determined they are responsible for at least 16 other fires last fall, 12 of which were deadly, and 11 of which clearly violated laws requiring proper maintenance and safety standards. Yet, the state of California is willing to pass on costs to the affected populations instead of the private San Francisco-based utility — whose CEO could receive more than $12 million in bonuses this year.

The coalition stands with all residents impacted by the fires, and refuses to allow the California Public Utilities Commission, CPUC President Michael J. Picker, and other politicians to bail out PG&E by forcing customers to pay for their negligence that destroyed 14,000 homes, claimed 88 lives, and has 203 people still missing.

The coalition also recognizes PG&E’s role in contributing to the increase in climate catastrophes, like the two week-long smoke-filled skies over Northern California, by investing in massive fossil fuel infrastructure across California.

“The people who have to live with the consequences of your past decisions to subsidize shareholders and dirty energy infrastructure should not also have to inherit the debts of this irresponsible corporation,” observed the coalition in an online petition and statement.

In addition, the state of California hasn’t provided respirator masks, shelter, or relief for thousands of homeless and vulnerable folks, but now wants to bail out a bloated, investor-owned utility that has spent millions to defeat efforts that would usher in safer, renewable energy. Lawmakers need to prioritize lives, health and the climate, not the financial stability of PG&E.

“People across northern California were forced to endure the smoke from this fire for two weeks.” said Esther Goolsby, East Oakland organizer for Communities for a Better Environment. “Particularly vulnerable were Black, Brown and low-income communities, who face the brunt of the Bay Area’s pollution every day. Toxic air smothered us, but only volunteers like Mask Oakland came to help. Left unchallenged, this pattern of institutional and regulatory neglect ensures climate change hits marginalized groups first and worst.”

“We have an alternative to the monopoly utilities; Community Choice Energy, where the public is in control of the electrical system,” said Jessica Tovar from Local Clean Energy Alliance and East Bay Clean Power Alliance. “We need to democratize energy by putting in the hands of the people, not the corporations driven by profit. If we had decentralized energy — local clean energy — we wouldn’t need the transmission lines that caused the fires in the first place.”

“We’re in a state of emergency where climate disasters are more frequently disrupting, displacing, and even killing people across the country. We need our state to take climate change seriously before it’s too late and that means investing in community-led renewable energy systems that are local and regional — not CEOs and shareholders who make millions and millions in profit.” said Scott Parkin of Diablo Rising Tide.

The coalition is made up of the following groups: Mask Oakland, Local Clean Energy Alliance, East Bay Clean Power Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Diablo Rising Tide, Democratic Socialists of America and others. There will be a convening this Saturday, December 1st to discuss how to group will take next steps.

For more info on any of the groups involved, please contact Vanessa with Diablo Rising Tide at msvanessabutterworth@gmail.com or 415-290-3841.

 

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Indigenous Grandmothers, Protectors & Defenders Rally and Take Action at the Gates of Shell Oil Refinery in Martinez, CA

Indigenous Grandmothers, Protectors & Defenders Rally and Take Action at the Gates of Shell Oil Refinery in Martinez, CA

via Diablo Rising Tide

shell noMartinez, CA:  Early this morning, more than six people have occupied the main entrance to the Shell Oil refinery on Pacheco Boulevard  in Martinez, CA today to protect and defend the land, air, water and soil from pollutants and to protest the company’s environmental and human rights record. Gathering with several dozen other community members, the group intentionally walked onto Shell’s property with the intention of stopping entry into the refinery.

Today’s action at Shell is in response to the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty’s call to non-violently rise up and challenge destructive practices corporate harms to the environment on each Solstice and Equinox. The group’s call is to act to ensure healthy air, water, soil, seeds and a safe climate so that life may continue.

“Humanity can live without fossil fuels.  We cannot live without clean air and water.  The oil industry is poisoning the air, water and climate that is necessary for life to exist.  State regulators have let us all down by irresponsibly allowing the oil industry to pollute the natural systems that were to be set aside for human existence.  We’re here today as grandmothers, mothers, aunts and allies to rise up for the future of life on Mother Earth,” said Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More SF Bay, “Our actions are prayers for the future of life, for the safety of the refinery workers, and for the corporate directors to remember their place within the system of life.”

Citing concerns around a recent Shell pipeline spill in Northern California and the ever-deteriorating air quality of the Bay Area due to the “Refinery Corridor,” which the Martinez refinery is a part of, and ongoing concerns around the global climate, the group called for Indigenous women and their allies to join them in drawing the line to prevent more harms from destroying the environment that life needs to exist.

In late May, hazardous materials crews were sent to clean up as many as 21,000 gallons of oil after a Shell pipeline rupture in Tracy California. According to a 2012 study from Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) on particulate matter, called Understanding Particulate Matter: Protecting Public Health in the San Francisco Bay Area 1, the Shell and Tesoro refineries in Martinez, CA produce the most hazardous air pollutants (hap) per barrel of oil in the Bay Area refinery corridor. Shell’s Arctic drilling operations have been the subject of much environmental opposition in the Northwest over the past year. Finally, Shell has a long international record of human rights and environmental crimes from Nigeria to Ireland.

Protesters at today’s action said that Shell’s continued operations endanger communities, ecosystems and the climate locally in the Bay Area, regionally up and down the West Coast and abroad.

“I live in constant fear for the health and safety of my community,” said Adrian Wilson, who grew up in Contra Costa County and is taking action today at the gates of Shell. “It’s unfair for us to be exposed to this toxic air pollution. Like every good resident I just want to protect and provide for our safety.”

Groups organizing today’s event include Signers of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, Idle No More SF Bay and Diablo Rising Tide.

  1. BAAQMD. 2012. Summary of PM Report. Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Accessed 6/15/16.

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Idle No More SF Bay Area is a group of Native Americans and our allies rising up for the rights of Indigenous People, Mother Earth and the coming generations. You can learn more at https://www.facebook.com/INMSolidaritySF

The Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty is an historic treaty signed for the first time during UN Climate Week, September 2015.  There are over 100 signers of this treaty from North, Central and South America.

Diablo Rising Tide is the Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America network. Rising Tide is an all-volunteer climate network in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico who confront the root causes of climate change with protests, direct action, and grassroots organizing.The larger Rising Tide network spans four continents and works with activists in North and South America, Europe, and Australia.  You can learn more at www.diablorisingtide.org

BREAKING: Climate activists launch daring occupation of the California PUC, calling for agency to shut down all gas storage facilities

SAN FRANCISCO – Two Bay Area residents have occupied the ledge above the entrance to the headquarters of the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today to protest the PUC’s failure to protect the Golden State from the climate and health impacts of methane from underground natural gas storage facilities.
A well blew out at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch on October 23, 2015. Since then, 96,000 metric tons of methane have escaped into the atmosphere, the equivalent of an additional 505,000 cars on the road for a year. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more climate-intensive than carbon dioxide. While SoCalGas reported last week that the leak had been plugged, the Aliso Canyon leak has been responsible for 25% of the state’s daily greenhouse gas emissions.
Aliso Canyon is one of 12 underground natural gas storage facilities in California, and one of 326 nationwide that use depleted oil and gas wells for storage for urban customers.
“While plugging the leak at Aliso Canyon has been a good step, today we are demanding that the PUC shut down all gas storage facilities; until they do, we are occupying the PUC,” said Christy Tennery-Spalding from Diablo Rising Tide, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America.
The PUC is one of two agencies responsible for oversight of underground natural gas storage facilities. The leaking well had not been inspected since 1976. The CEO of SoCalGas reported to the LA Weekly that a safety valve on the well had been removed in 1979.
“It is unconscionable that these regulators are putting people at risk while giving companies a pass. The last time Aliso Canyon was inspected by the PUC was the last time Jerry Brown was governor,” said Kelsey Baker, from Occupy San Francisco Environmental Justice, currently occupying the ledge over the PUC’s headquarters entrance.
SoCalGas is a division of Sempra Energy and uses the Aliso Canyon facility to store natural gas for delivery to 12 natural gas power plants and 21 million consumers in Southern California. Since the blowout, 10,000 of Porter Ranch’s 30,000 residents have fled the community. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, requiring the several state agencies to take urgent action.
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Diablo Rising Tide is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America. Rising Tide North America is an all-volunteer grassroots organizing network in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico who confronts the root causes of climate change with protests and events. You can find out more at www.diablorisingtide.org.