Climate Opponents – Page 2 – CA Climate Accountability Project

The Oil and Gas Industry Agenda in California

California has taken important steps to combat climate change and transition to 100 percent clean energy, but in recent years, the state has fallen short, caving to gas and oil interests and abandoning its position as a climate leader.

It’s easy to overlook the power that gas and oil has over legislators and regulators as their lobbyists confuse the issue about clean energy and chip away at policies out of public view. But when you try to understand why California’s climate policies have stalled, it’s clear that the industry’s opposition is significant, that their advocacy efforts amount to an agenda to keep California burning more fossil fuels, and that our leaders are listening to them.

Gas and oil industry interests have weakened California’s clean energy and climate policies by using a rigged state political system to push decision-makers to carve out special deals so they can keep profiting. Oil and gas industry lobbyists have spent millions of dollars lobbying regulators and state legislators to oppose policy and regulation that would build out renewable energy from clean sources like solar and wind, improve California’s electric vehicle infrastructure, deploy non-polluting electric trucks, and transition our buildings to be powered by zero-emissions energy. That’s on top of the millions they have made in campaign contributions and independent expenditures on behalf of lawmakers in recent elections. If they continue to succeed, consumers will pay more and Californians will be left with more fires, extreme heat, and worsened drought.

The industry’s agenda

Use expensive fossil fuel alternatives instead of renewables

California should be on a path to transform the electricity grid to run on renewable energy. In 2018, California passed S.B. 100, a landmark bill requiring the state to transition the grid to be powered by 100% clean energy by 2045, and there’s growing consensus that California can and should move up this target to 2035. The state is also rapidly scaling its procurement of clean energy from wind and solar. In early 2020 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a plan requiring the state to procure nearly 24 GW of new renewables and more than 12 GW of new batteries by 2032. State residents are seeing the benefits:

  • 484,980 Californians were employed in the clean energy sector in 2020, five times as many workers as the oil and gas industry 
  • Jobs in the clean energy sector are high quality; wages are 29 percent higher than the statewide median wage
  • California would save 68,332 lives by switching to clean energy

The oil and gas industry sees the writing on the wall and is doing everything in its power to delay the transition to electricity powered by renewables so that they can keep profiting. They’ve lobbied against legislation that would increase the use of renewables in the state and against legislation that would include renewables as preferred sources in California’s grid planning process. They’ve also pushing for exorbitantly expensive fuels like gas from agriculture to lock in reliance on the gas system.

  • In 2015, WSPA opposed S.B. 350 which would increase California’s share of electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent 
  • In 2021, SoCalGas announced plans to source five percent of the gas it sells from “renewable natural gas” by 2022 and 20 percent by 2030, and publicly stated that they will have gas in their portfolio in 2045 
  • In 2022, SoCalGas lobbied against S.B. 423, which listed renewable energy and zero-emissions resources as preferred sources in California’s energy procurement and planning efforts

Prevent clean energy from powering buildings

Buildings are one of the most deadly sources of air pollution in the United States, and new research has found that exposure to indoor air pollution accounted for 28,200 premature deaths in 2018. Powering California’s buildings with clean energy will safeguard California’s climate, improve air quality, and grow the economy, and the state is already moving in this direction. In California, 54 cities have passed policies requiring new homes and buildings be built with non-polluting appliances, and in 2021, the state approved a first-in-the-nation building code that includes electricity as the fuel of choice for new buildings.

Powering California’s buildings with clean energy: 

  • Would save consumers $3.5 billion a year 
  • Would save households up to $2,500 per year on energy bills 
  • Would create over 100,000 jobs in California by 2045
  • For the average house, replacing a gas furnace with an electric heat pump would reduce climate pollution by over 45% over the next 10 years 
  • Delaying California’s transition to electric buildings is expected to result in more than $1 billion in unneeded spending on new gas connection infrastructure

Through astroturf groups and lobbying efforts, the gas industry is trying to slow California’s progress to electrify buildings and lock in harmful emissions from the building sector to protect their bottom line. 

  • In 2016, SoCalGas approved an “action plan” to recruit gas industry and building industry trade groups to fight a proposal for stronger water heater efficiency standards, which it claimed would reduce the company’s revenue by $17 million. 
  • In 2017, investigators found that SoCalGas improperly used customer funds to fight all-electric codes in at least five cities across California. 
  • In 2021, SoCal Gas opposed S.B. 31 which would have incorporated building electrification within several parts of electric utility ratepayer funded programs, and required the California Energy Commission to fund projects deploying emissions-reduction technologies in commercial and residential buildings.

Use polluting fuels in vehicles

Ninety percent of Californians live in areas that experience unhealthy air at some point during the year, and transportation is responsible for 80 percent of California’s smog-forming emissions. Heavy-duty trucks are the largest source of smog pollution in California, emitting nearly 40 percent of the state’s diesel particulate matter. Trucks and buses make up seven percent of vehicles on the road in California, but account for 20 percent of global warming emissions from the transportation sector. 

California has made great strides to move our goods and people with non-polluting transportation technology. In 2020, California passed the first-in-the-nation Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, requiring manufacturers to produce zero-emission heavy-duty trucks starting in 2024, and in 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom released an executive order requiring 100 percent of new cars to be zero-emissions by 2035. 

Gas and oil executives understand that their business model is threatened by California’s transition away from polluting gas vehicles. Instead of being part of this revolution and offering real climate solutions, they’re lobbying regulators and legislators in California, setting up astroturf campaigns, and funding research to delay the state’s transition to electric transportation, slow the build out of essential electric vehicle infrastructure, prevent under resourced communities from accessing funds to purchase electric vehicles, and keep polluting gas fuels in the transportation mix.

  • In 2020, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) opposed the California Resources Board’s Advanced Clean Trucks Rule because it “sent the wrong signal to the market” 
  • In 2020, WSPA opposed Gavin Newsom’s executive order requiring 100 percent of new cars to be electric vehicles by 2035 claiming California couldn’t expect the proper infrastructure and upgrades to be paid for by 2035
  • In 2021, WSPA opposed S.B. 726, which required the California Air Resources Board to set a greenhouse gas reduction target for transportation as part of its 2022 Scoping Plan
  • In 2021, WSPA lobbied against A.B. 1218 to codify California’s goal of 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger vehicles and light duty trucks to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035 In 2021, WSPA commissioned a study advocating for “renewable liquid and gaseous fuels” for heavy-duty trucks 

Over the last several years, SoCalGas and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership have encouraged California regulators to replace diesel trucks with natural gas trucks, despite the growing availability of zero-emissions electric trucks and evidence that natural gas truck technology degrades rapidly and, in some instances, causes them to pollute more than diesel trucks

There are more fights to come 

California’s legislators and regulators are currently considering dozens of bills and new regulations that could bolster the state’s climate ambitions, and each will likely come with a fight against the oil and gas industry’s agenda. We’ve already lost some of those fights due to the industry’s influence. S.B. 953 and S.B. 1423 presented key opportunities to combat offshore oil drilling and empower offshore renewable energy development but failed to advance to a Senate floor vote after being defeated in the Appropriations Committee. The California Senate’s Appropriations Committee also killed S.B. 1486, which would have closed Aliso Canyon, the site of the country’s largest gas leak, by 2027. 

There are still many more opportunities for legislators and regulators to push strong climate action, but we need to ensure the gas industry doesn’t act to weaken or block these policies. 

  • S.B. 1010 would require 100 percent of vehicles purchased by state agencies to be zero-emission by 2027. 
  • A.B. 2204 would establish the Office of Clean Energy Workforce to help provide job training to help fossil fuel workers to new jobs critical for the clean energy transition. 
  • S.B. 887 would facilitate the build out of new transmission for a clean electricity grid by pushing regulators to identify key powerline projects and begin approving them. 
  • Scoping Plan: The California Air Resources Board has an opportunity to accelerate climate solutions like wind and solar energy and building and transportation electrification through its Scoping Plan, a climate action blueprint that “evaluate(s) pathways” to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. 
  • Advanced Clean Cars: The California Air Resources Board will vote in August 2022 on the Advanced Clean Cars standard, a rule that will achieve at least 75 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030. 
  • Advanced Clean Fleets: The California Air Resources Board has an opportunity to enact a strong Advanced Clean Fleet rule which would make 100 percent of new truck sales pollution-free by 2035.

Later is too late for real climate action and clean energy.

If gas and oil executives and lobbyists get their way and are able to block and slow our transition to cleaner, more reliable, cheaper clean energy, transportation, and buildings, Californians will bear the costs. Our climate crisis will worsen, we’ll have fewer energy jobs, our air will be more polluted, and families will pay more for energy, while gas and oil executives squeeze more profit. 

Leaders need to do what huge supermajorities of Californians want – promote clean energy from solar and wind and ensure that clean energy powers our cars, homes and economy. Leaders can’t be for clean energy and industry special deals – it’s time to pick a side.

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The fossil fuel industry is using CA legislators to kill critical climate legislation.

Three recent bills show how legislators have allied gas and oil interests to rig the system in Sacramento.

The oil and gas industry has rigged the system in Sacramento, using intensive lobbying, campaign contributions to influence legislators, and an aggressive effort to reframe the continued burning of fossil fuels as consistent with climate action. Many legislators who say they support climate action go on to accept oil money, and then take or skip votes, ensuring that environmental bills die. 

We’ve had a number of legislative opportunities to up California’s climate approach, only to fall short. The defeat of three recent bills shows how climate actions are stalled and defeated in practice.

  • AB 1395, the CA Climate Crisis Act, Died on the Senate floor: Would have achieved carbon neutrality by 2045 and required net negative greenhouse gas emissions afterwards; would have required California to identify five-year interim greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets beginning in 2025. Three Democrats and nine Republicans voted no. Fourteen Democrats abstained from voting. The bill only needed seven additional votes to pass.
  • AB 345, Died in the Senate Natural Resources Committee: Would have created 2,500-foot buffer zones between drilling sites and homes, schools, daycares, playgrounds, hospitals, and health clinics. Three Democrats and two Republicans in the Senate Natural Resources Committee voted no, and the bill failed 5-4. 
  • SB 64, Failed to pass in the California Assembly: Would have required the reporting of emissions associated with the startup and shutdown of electrical generating facilities and would have required a study on how to reduce or eliminate air emissions from electrical generation. Thirteen Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no, and nine Democrats and one Republican abstained from voting. The bill only needed eight additional votes to pass. 

Many of the legislators who voted no or abstained (which usually has the same effect as registering a NO vote) accepted money from fossil fuel companies (like Chevron, Sempra Energy, and Western States Petroleum Association), while claiming to support climate action. 

California needs to reach 100 percent clean energy as quickly as possible, and to ensure that we can use clean energy to power our cars, homes, buildings and economy.  These policies enjoy broad public support. More than 70 percent of Californians support 100 percent clean energy by 2035, including nine out of 10 Democrats. Yet common sense, life-saving climate policies keep dying on the legislative floor. Without action, our climate crisis will be exacerbated, we will have fewer energy jobs overall, our air will be more polluted, and families will pay more for electricity and transportation –– all while oil and gas companies squeeze more profits.  

Up to now, legislators have avoided full scrutiny. Sacramento insiders have accepted that the fossil fuel industry will win its lobbying battles. Now, as the public is attuned to climate action and advocates are taking a harder look at contributions and voting records, legislators will have to pick a side.

Bob Hertzberg represents the 18th Senate District.

SEMPRA, Chevron, and Western States Petroleum Association Ramping Up Lobby Spending To Delay Climate Action and Create Special Deals for Themselves

SEMPRA, Chevron, and the Western States Petroleum Association spent over $2.4 million on lobbying in California in the first three months of 2022 to push an agenda to burn more fossil fuels.

What do SEMPRA, Chevron, and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) have in common? All three are among the top spenders in recently submitted California lobby expenditure reports, shelling out a combined $2.4 million in just the first three months of 2022, according to lobbying disclosures.

That’s on top of the millions they have made in campaign contributions and independent expenditures on behalf of lawmakers in recent elections, and the oil and gas industry has used that influence to rig the political system in California and push an agenda to burn more fossil fuels. Now, instead of denying the impacts of climate change, the industry is delaying real action by trying to create special deals for themselves.

A closer look at the lobby reports reveals SEMPRA, Chevron, and WSPA continue to share an interest in blocking urgent climate and environmental justice action in the California legislature and regulatory agencies. They are required to report all bills and regulatory processes they seek to influence and for the first quarter of 2022, all three list:

  • Assembly Bill 1218 – which would set zero emission goals for cars and trucks and phase out gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.
  • Senate Bill 260 – which would require companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Senate Bill 342 – which would add two members to the South Coast Air Quality Management District from communities disproportionately burdened by pollution and environmental justice issues.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) Climate Change Scoping Plan Update – a blueprint that will guide the next 20 years of climate action in California.

Despite Californians’ strong public support for climate action and clean energy solutions and a history of enacting landmark climate policy, the industry’s campaigns and lobby investments are again paying off for oil and gas interests – with key climate action weakened and stalled. Assembly Bill 1218 died after failing to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor. Senate Bill 342 failed on the Senate floor with 13 Democratic and Republican Senators failing to even cast a vote. And Senate Bill 260 passed the Senate floor but has languished for three months without a hearing in the House. CARB’s recently released draft Climate Change Scoping Plan does not include a target date or plan for the phaseout of oil refining, delays zero emission vehicle sale goals, and relies heavily on carbon capture and storage, a key priority for oil and gas interests. 

If gas and oil executives and lobbyists get their way and are able to block and slow our transition to cleaner, more reliable, cheaper clean energy, Californians will bear the costs. Our climate crisis will worsen, we’ll have fewer energy jobs, our air will be more polluted, and families will pay more for energy, while gas and oil executives squeeze more profit. Leaders need to do what huge supermajorities of Californians want – promote clean energy from solar and wind and ensure that clean energy powers our cars, homes and economy. Leaders can’t be for clean energy and industry special deals – it’s time to pick a side.

WSPA EV lobbying efforts

The majority of Californians believe vehicles should be powered by 100% clean energy by 2035, but WSPA is opposing policies that will get more electric vehicles on California’s roads.

The oil industry, led by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), has been working hard to slow the adoption of zero emissions vehicles in the West, pitting them directly against trends in the auto industry and against their own claim that they support increasing access to reliable and environmentally responsible energy options. 

WSPA spent over $4.3 million dollars on lobbying in 2021 and invested heavily in lobbying against climate-friendly legislation and policies related to electric vehicles. The trade group continued to drive the false narrative that policies that will help California transition toward lifesaving electric vehicles are “arbitrary mandates.” 

Studies show that transitioning to electric vehicles would save more than 7,000 lives in California by 2050, and corporate giants like GM and Ford have already committed to producing mostly electric cars in the next 10 years because it makes sense for their business model. The majority of Californians also support this transition — a decisive majority of  Californians believe all new vehicles shouldn’t produce polluting emissions by 2035. But WSPA is opposing key policies that would get more electric vehicles on California’s roads.

WSPA’s recent lobbying efforts to stop the build-out of charging stations and new electric vehicles gives us one more example of oil and gas executives and their lobbyists pushing a narrow corporate agenda to burn more fossil fuels and block California’s leadership on climate, just so they can keep profiting a little longer.

Here’s a breakdown of WSPA’s recent lobbying efforts and claims against electric vehicles:

WSPA created the misleading website Energy Ideas CA to oppose ongoing electric vehicle initiatives in California. The site includes false claims that switching to electric vehicles will drive up consumer costs, despite evidence that clean cars will be cheaper and more reliable than doubling down on dirty energy. We’ve seen this playbook before. WSPA is interfering with our cheap electric vehicle future by trying to keep us tied to dirty technologies of the past. 

WSPA opposed electric vehicle legislation by testifying in opposition, signing letters, and commenting to the California Public Utilities Commission. WSPA directly opposed a bill that would codify California’s transition to electric vehicles by 2035, a policy goal that the vast majority of Californians support. Oil, gas, and allied climate opponents are desperately trying to stall progress on climate action — and even take us backward — by forcing Californians to spend money supporting outdated gas infrastructure instead of the clean and affordable solutions they want to invest in.

WSPA falsely claimed that increasing access to electric vehicles will cost Californians jobs and increase prices. WSPA CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd has pushed the narrative that California’s transition to electric vehicles will cost hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs. The numbers say otherwise. California has five times more clean energy than oil and gas industry jobs, and phasing in climate-friendly policies will protect workers’ livelihoods and help keep costs reasonable.

WSPA is trying to block progress across the West; they opposed electric vehicle efforts in Washington state and Nevada. In Nevada, WSPA presented at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Clean Cars Nevada stakeholder workshop on June 17, 2021, claiming that WSPA’s companies are vital to keeping Nevada’s citizens supplied with the energy they need to fuel their homes. WSPA also testified in opposition to a Clean Fuel Standard bill in the Washington State Legislature calling it a “costly and ineffective mandate.” WSPA knows that oil and gas executives make the most money by ensuring our economy and our communities burn dirty fuels. That’s why they have opposed smart policies that will make the West less polluted.

WSPA has spent millions of dollars trying to influence state governments to defeat bills that will save lives and safeguard our climate, and they’re continuing to mislead the public to protect their own profits at the expense of our health and wallets.

California needs to act quickly and in the public’s interest. We have a lot to gain by transitioning to cleaner cars, and risk facing the steep costs of natural disaster and pollution cleanup, increased healthcare costs, and the loss of land, water, and wildlife that come from burning fossil fuels.

SoCal Gas

SoCalGas is holding California back from taking meaningful climate action by using deceptive lobbying tactics to carve out special policies that advance a pro-gas agenda.

If you want to understand the climate fight in California, you need to know about SoCalGas. The Southern California affiliate of Sempra — the nation’s largest natural gas utility company —  has emerged as perhaps the leading opponent of the next logical steps to fight climate change and pollution in California. They are pioneers of a new and more deceptive kind of opposition to climate action, using front groups and lobbying tactics to push state legislators to carve out special policies that advance a pro-gas agenda. 

California is moving toward the adoption of clean energy, like solar and wind, and transitioning to 100 percent clean energy enjoys remarkably broad public support: the decisive majority of Californians strongly support policies to shift the electrical grid to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. And as the state grapples with fires, droughts, and other immediate impacts of climate change, the need to phase in clean energy, rather than doubling down on dirty energy, is urgent

As clean energy is increasingly available and affordable, we all want to see it powering more of our lives, including zero-emission cars and new technologies to heat and cool our homes. This will benefit Californians’ health, the economy, and the environment, but it’s a fundamental problem for SoCalGas. SoCalGas only sells gas to its customers, unlike some other utilities or companies that also supply electricity or other forms of clean energy. This explains their desperation to slow California’s transition to renewable energy.

It also defines the stakes in California’s climate debate by pitting the interests of consumers, energy workers, and our environment against narrow corporate interests.

Funding affiliated front groups to oppose or delay climate policies geared toward phasing out use of natural gas in California — SoCalGas helped create the astroturf group Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES), misusing using ratepayer money to help fund the launch. The group, which described itself as a non-profit coalition of “families, small and large commercial businesses, industrial users, local governments,” was actually a front group furthering SoCalGas’ agenda of opposing clean energy and advocating for California’s continued dependence on fossil fuels and natural gas. Instead of recruiting true allies, after SoCalGas created the group, they populated it with “supporters” — politicians and leaders from minority communities who SoCalGas specifically recruited to speak out in favor of the effort — leveraging that orchestrated support to advance its pro-fossil fuel agenda. C4BES is now defunct, after the Public Advocate’s Office exposed the astroturf group and ordered the California Public Utilities Commission to investigate the relationship between SoCalGas and C4BES. 

Opposing or delaying commonsense, cost-effective, and lifesaving climate policies to protect their own profits – In 2017, SoCalGas lobbied against electric vehicles and emissions standards, arguing that policymakers should prioritize natural gas vehicles. In 2020, SoCalGas sued the State of California in an attempt to overturn a mandate aiming to reduce air pollution by putting 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. The lawsuit, filed by the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition — of which SoCalGas is one of two charter members — argued that “the California Energy Commission has failed to promote natural gas as required by state law.” A recent Harvard study estimated that more than 34,000 Californians died prematurely as a result of fossil fuel pollution in 2018 alone, yet SoCalGas and other companies continue to push dirty fuels on our communities. 

Using ratepayer money to fund anti-climate lobbying— Advocates uncovered that SoCalGas used ratepayer money to try to block federal energy efficiency standards and other programs that would reduce pollution and save their customers money. In 2019, SoCalGas authorized use of nearly $28 million for “balanced energy” activities, characterized those activities as operations and maintenance expenditures, and billed them to their customers. But, in reality, that money funded the anti-climate lobbying effort to prevent cities from gradually phasing out fossil fuel use. And while “balanced energy solutions” might imply that SoCalGas prioritizes giving consumers access to a variety of energy options, the reality is that SoCalGas only supplies gas. SoCalGas originally denied the claims but when pressed by a consumer watchdog group, they acknowledged that some ratepayer money did go toward these lobbying efforts. SoCalGas claimed this was simply an “inadvertent accounting error.” A $28 million accounting error, apparently. In a positive step toward holding the company accountable, California officials recently fined SoCalGas nearly $10 million for using customers’ money to pay for their anti-climate campaigns and lobbying efforts.  

Creating confusion and trying to cut themselves special deals through policy proposals — Trucks make up just 4% of vehicles on U.S. roads, but they are responsible for nearly 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., as well as half of the nitrogen oxide emissions and 60% of the fine particulates emitted from all vehicles. As part of their last-ditch effort to undermine California’s transition away from fossil fuels, SoCalGas launched the Advanced Clean Trucks Now Los Angeles (ACT NOW LA) campaign in 2017, arguing that the state should invest in gas-powered vehicles over zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs). SoCalGas’ claim that gas trucks are the “best way to reduce heavy-duty trucking emissions” is nonsensical, but has continued even after the huge advances electric vehicles have made in recent years. They know that EVs are undoubtedly the best solution to reducing vehicle emissions, but they continue to push false solutions to create public confusion and help their own outdated business model.

Recruiting local politicians and minority groups to promote fossil fuels through lobbying efforts and monetary contributions —  In 2017, SoCalGas enlisted politicians of color and paid local residents to promote fossil fuels at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach ahead of the port officials’ vote on its Clean Air Action Plan. Many of the campaigners, who had been told they were “‘standing up for sustainability’ as part of an environmental campaign,” weren’t aware that they were actually taking part in an industry campaign to promote fossil fuels and “near-zero” trucks. At around the same time, SoCalGas worked with Imprenta Communications Group (an agency that claims to “empower communities of color by giving them a “voice”) to recruit Latino/a and Asian American politicians to promote the oil and gas agenda, through a “well-coordinated operation” that involved “writing gas-friendly remarks for politicians, making campaign contributions to those who delivered talking points, and sending [SoCalGas’] own speakers to public meetings.” 

Using their political influence and making campaign contributions to push legislators to carve out special policies that only benefit the fossil fuel industry — The vast majority of legislative Democrats in California, many of whom claim to have a pro-environment platform, took contributions from Sempra (SoCalGas’ parent company) in the past five years. While it’s not altogether uncommon for legislators on both sides of the aisle to take utility money, Sempra isn’t just another utility, and their political contributions (over $1.5 million in 2021 alone) are especially troubling given SoCalGas’ history of actively attempting to stall California’s climate progress. Meanwhile, key climate bills like The California Climate Crisis Act have died on the legislative floor as California lawmakers who are the recipients of these contributions refuse opportunities to make concrete progress on climate change. 

Every day of delay on climate action costs us. California could save over a thousand lives per year by powering our buildings and homes with clean electricity instead of natural gas. SoCalGas executives know that. But they also know that as long as our economy and our communities burn dirty fuels, they can continue to pollute and profit a little longer.