Officials from across San Luis Obispo County are calling for Gov. Gavin Newsom to enact a comprehensive climate emergency plan to phase out the production and burning of oil and gas in California. 

The group demanded that Newsom end new drilling permits and enact a 2,500-foot setback on drilling to protect public health at a press conference Jan. 24. Approximately 20 students and concerned citizens joined San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, Morro Bay Mayor John Headding and Oceano Community Service District Director Cynthia Replogle. 

Elected Officials to Protect California organized the event — a group made up of more than 300 elected Californian officials pushing for the end of fossil fuels. 

Harmon urged Sacramento to take a stronger stance in keeping fossil fuels in the ground. 

“Local elected officials are really doing a lot to step up into the vacuum that the federal government is leaving in terms of climate leadership,” Harmon said. “The City of [San Luis Obispo] has made recent efforts to help curb its own carbon emissions and lead the way for other cities in the county to follow.”

Newsom passed a moratorium on new fracking wells and a partial moratorium on steam-injection oil drilling in November 2019, but the group said that it is only the first step. They emphasized emergency action is needed to get California to 100 percent clean energy. 

With large-scale fires spreading in Australia, officials voiced their concerns that California will face the same type of natural disaster.

“Look at the fires in Australia, and what had happened to this state just one year ago with its massive fires,” Elected Officials to Protect California Spokesperson Christian Brock said. “It is an issue that may seem benign to some but affects more of us than we think.”

This press conference comes after the Bureau of Land Management announced they will allow fracking and oil drilling in eight counties in California, including San Luis Obispo County. 

“This is the perfect example of a type of event that brings people together in the community,” Harmon said. “We need to bring our mission to the polls and sharing our story of the climate crisis to really make it clear to Gov. Newsom that change must happen.” 

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