The latest local wins in phasing out fossil fuels
July 18, 2021
SAFE Cities July 2021 Newsletter
A FAST AND CRITICAL TIME
Leaders moved so many new SAFE Cities policies in the first half of 2021 that we’re having trouble fitting them in this newsletter! We celebrate these achievements as we also see tragic evidence that we need to keep moving fast together to protect communities and global climate. We invite you to read on for good news, what to watch for next, how to get involved, and even reasons to laugh a bit at some fossil-fueled, cringey moments.
Petaluma garnered worldwide attention and applause in March when its City Council voted to ban the construction of new gas stations. That made Petaluma the first city in the U.S. to approve this policy, marking a significant political and cultural moment where the public is re-framing and re-evaluating the need for an iconic symbol of fossil fuel consumption – the gas station. The policy was the result of the leadership of Mayor Teresa Barrett and Councilmember D’Lynda Fischer, as well as the strong advocacy efforts of the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS), 350 Petaluma, and Climate Action Petaluma. Petaluma also passed an all-electric code for new construction
Thanks to local climate activists from the groups 350 Sacramento, Environmental Council of Sacramento, and Sunrise Sacramento with support from SAFE Cities, the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to adopt an ordinance requiring new homes, low-rise apartment buildings and commercial structures to run entirely on electricity starting in 2023. Councilmember Katie Valenzuela successfully pushed for a schedule of equity review and adjustments for the policy before voting yes.
Culver City, CA
In its final vote to phase out drilling in its portion of the Inglewood Oil Field, the City Council of Culver City showed true leadership and commitment to a just transition again by including clean up and remediation of the oil wells in the plan going forward. Heading into the vote, Vice Mayor Daniel Lee tweeted, “We will do the hard work of making sure that along with the shut down we guarantee that there is a #JustTransition for workers employed on the field. We will not leave the workers behind.” He also noted he hoped Culver City’s move would inspire LACounty to phase out drilling in its portion of the oil field.
Seattle became the first city in Washington to meaningfully limit fracked gas in new buildings. The City approved new building codes that increase efficiency and require electric heating/cooling in large residential and commercial buildings. This is a huge step for the state and we can’t wait to see which cities and counties will follow their lead!
South San Francisco, CA
The City Council passed a building electrification ordinance for new residential buildings that also mandates electric vehicle charging stations. Councilmember Flor Nicolas, who championed the city’s effort, lamented that the city had not been more on the leading edge of the movement, saying “I think it’s about time for us to do something about this.”
San Carlos, CA
The City Council passed an ordinance that requires new construction to be all-electric. The ordinance also includes remodel projects, with some exceptions, that update more than 50% of the building.
Charlotte launched its all-electric bus program with the approval of a pilot project that includes purchasing 18 electric buses from three different makers in early 2022. The financing of the pilot is noteworthy for other communities wanting to electrify fleets. Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge is supporting the pilot, federal grants are paying for part of the bus purchases, and the local utility is installing and paying for charging infrastructure.
An outpouring of Vancouverites defended the City Council’s groundbreaking Climate Emergency Action Plan, set to go into effect Jan. 1 of 2022. The gas lobby was backing a proposal to delay implementation of the “zero-emission” standard by a year. Emails and public testimony from Stand.earth members and builders, doctors, teachers, and more urged no delay. Key arguments: Public health and global climate can’t wait any longer, and businesses that invested money to meet the new standard should not be punished. The City Council voted to keep the timeline intact and Vancouver keeps its position as a worldwide leader on climate action.
Los Angeles, CA
L.A. became the first city in the U.S. to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, joining a global movement calling for national governments to negotiate and ratify a treaty to stop fossil fuel expansion, phase out fossil fuels, and ensure a global just transition for all. “If you have lung cancer, you stop smoking,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, who championed the resolution. “Our beautiful, fragile planet is overheating and we have to – we must – halt the ongoing reckless extraction and burning of fossil fuels, while we still have the chance.”
Toronto endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty just as we were going to”‘press” with the newsletter, becoming the second city in Canada to do so.
Yakima, WA and Hayward, CA
Yakima, WA, and Hayward, CA, both passed SAFE Cites Resolutions, including endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and committing to becoming a SAFE City, without direct advocacy from Stand.earth’s team. Local activists with 350 Yakima Climate Action were inspired by other communities taking action,reached out to their City Council, and got the resolution introduced and passed. In Hayward, Councilmember Aisha Wahab introduced the resolution. We’re looking forward to connecting with Hayward and Yakima’s community and local government leaders about next steps.
More Treaty Endorsements Around the World
Several more local governments around the world endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty in the first half of the year, including Barcelona, Spain; Lewes and Amber Valley in the UK; and the Australian Capital Territory, Moreland, and Darebin in Australia.
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines passed a resolution expressing the need to move off fossil fuels and committing the city to 100% renewable energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 2035. Achieving the goal will take new power generation and storage on the part of the City and also action from the City’s electricity supplier, Mid-American Energy.
The Barnstable County Assemble of Delegates updated their Climate Action Plan with language that specifically notes the need to move off fossil fuels.
The Larimer County Commission has extended the temporary moratorium on new oil and gas development applications.
The Memphis City Council passed a temporary moratorium on new gas stations and directed the Division of Planning and Development to study the impacts of new gas stations and propose zoning amendments based on the results of the study.
Berkeley, CA and South Portland, ME Wins Bolstered
A federal judge has upheld Berkeley’s ban on gas hook ups in new residential and commercial construction – the first policy of its kind in the nation – against a suitfrom the California Restaurant Association.The Biden Administration has submitted an amicus brief in support of South Portland. Pipeline owner Suncor Energy Inc. brought a suit against South Portland over its ordinance banning storage and handling of crude from pipelines onto marine vessles. This decision may create important precedent for other infrastructure fights.
ON THE HORIZON
Challenges to Confront
The construction industry lobbyists in Spokane, WA, are trying a new tactic that we need to track. In June they submitted signatures for an initiative campaign that is intended to prevent the City Council from ever limiting natural gas. Signatures are still being counted. If they have enough, it will be on the ballot for city residents in November.
Growing Preemption Trouble
While the approach in Spokane, WA, is a new tactic for preemption, oil and gasinterests have succeeded in pushing many state legislators to pass bills that preempt local governments from phasing out fossil fuels. Fifteen states havepassed laws this year preempting local laws on moving communities off gas,including in many Midwest states, Texas, and Florida. SAFE Cities is talking with advocates around the country to find the best strategy to counter preemption.
Progress to Track
Whatcom County, WA
The Whatcom County Council has been working steadily to develop consensus on a groundbreaking new set of policies to permanently restrict fossil fuel expansion projects in a community with two major oil refineries. We anticipate the final adoption of this ordinance shortly. Keep your eyes open for this major victory in the community where the SAFE Cities movement started.
Santa Ana, CA
For the past few months, a coalition of climate and environmental justice groups including SAFE Cities has been working with City Councilmember Jessie Lopez to pass a resolution that will begin the process of taking comprehensive action on the twin, citywide crises of climate change and environmental pollution. Among other things, the resolution will commit Santa Ana to developing policies andactions to decarbonize and electrify transportation and buildings, limit expansionof fossil fuel combustion, transport, and infrastructure, and limit or stop exposureto lead and other toxic pollutants through remediation and cleanup efforts.
New York City, NY
New York Communities for Change, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and NYPIRG are all supporting a Gas Free NYC bill for new and renovated buildings with Intro 2317, with lead sponsor Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel. NYC has already achieved a gold standard for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings with Local Law 97, which was championed, expanded, and defended by recently retired Councilmember Costa Constantinides and Climate Works for All. SAFE Cities will be supporting the Gas Free move while we also are supporting passage of an endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Los Angeles, CA
Councilmember Paul Koretz has made a motion for city agencies to explore a ban on new gas stations. It’s very exciting to see this in a huge city built around cars, and SAFE Cities looks forward to supporting this policy.
Brookline, MA and Arlington, MA
Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency released a plan that calls for newly built homes and other construction to be mostly electrifiedand powered by renewables by 2027.
In 2019 the Sustainability Commission of the City of Eugene recommended several steps to phase out fracked gas use, including adding several new policies into the franchise agreement between the city and the fracked gas utility, NW Natural. The Fossil Free Eugene coalition, which SAFE Cities works with, came together to support a complete move off gas and has been growing public support for the overhaul of the franchise agreement.The City Council responded and the franchise agreement has not yet been renewed. In the meantime, a majority of the City Council indicated it’s time to talk about separate regulation to limit gas in the city.
Sonoma County, CA
The Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS) moved Sonoma County’s Regional Climate Protection Authority to consider a resolution urging SonomavCounty and all its city governments to adopt new gas station prohibitions.
The Tacoma City Council passed a resolution to phase fossil fuels out of city-owned buildings. The resolution also commits the city to conduct an impact assessment for electrifying all buildings in Tacoma – which will be made public by the beginning of 2023. Organizers are going to keep working to make sure that the city takes substantive action to cut fossil fuels out of buildings. Local SAFE organizers, like our friends at Citizens for a Healthy Bay, have been working for years to pass permanent protections from fossil fuels in the city. This spring, they got very close but the City Council further delayed the multi-year process. We’re hoping for a huge win in a few months.
Chester County, PA
Chester County’s Planning Commission has released an updated draft of its Climate Action Plan, incorporating input that came in from the public over the last couple months. The updated draft continues to include the exciting recommendation that the County limit new easements for fossil fuel infrastructure, including liquefied natural gas, on county property.
The Gasbusters, a coalition of 350PDX, SAFE Cities, and other groups, is working on countering messaging from the gas utility NW Natural while urging Portland and Multnomah County to ban gas entirely in all new buildings. The county recently voted to stop gas hook ups for new county-owned buildings.
GOOD AND BAD FUNNY
- The many reasons we need to move off gas are getting more eyeballs. Samantha Bee and the Full Frontal team created this funny and informative video called Here’s Why Your Gas Stove Is Killing You, which also features leader Mayor Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo.
- In the middle of the most severe heat wave ever recorded in the Pacific Northwest, the gas industry front group, the Affordable Energy Coalition had a particularly off-message post to social media.
- Meanwhile, a senior lobbyist with Exxon, who thought he was being interviewed for a new job, revealed to Greenpeace UK on video how the oil giant is working to strip climate out of the Biden infrastructure bill.
- We’re excited to announce that our international SAFE Organizing Network is off the ground! SAFE community organizers and activists across the US and Canada gathered online for their first quarterly call this June. It feels so good to see amazing fossil-fuel fighters all in one (Zoom) room!
- Our NEOS network for local elected officials, staff, and volunteers on local government advisory boards has launched and we’ve got people from seven states participating so far, talking about wins and challenges, exchanging resources, and cheering each other on.
ACTIONS TO TAKE
Along with your work in your community, here are a few quick ways to take action:
Part of why SAFE Cities exists is to get local, permanent protections in place so people never have to fight threat by threat again. In the meantime, you can support current fights by:
- Watching Ancestral Waters, a documentary from Native Daily Network,about the Puyallup Tribe’s fight for their rights and their water against Tacoma LNG.
- Taking action to Stop Line 3, a proposed pipeline expansion that would bring tar sands oil from Alberta in Canada to Wisconsin in the US.
Look ahead with us to the SAFE Cities Awards Party in September! Exact date/time and more information coming soon!
Thank you for being part of SAFE Cities! Reach out to us with any questions, notes on policies we should recognize, or anything else at SAFE@stand.earth.