Extreme Oil Moratorium is Needed

CBE calls on local, regional, and state officials in California to implement a Moratorium that halts new permits and construction of extreme oil* infrastructure.

California faces a crude source switch. The new oil the industry wants to refine here is fundamentally different, and its extraction, transport, and processing results in the most extreme pollution, safety hazard, and climate impacts of any petroleum known. A switch to this ‘extreme oil’ could result in severe and irreversible harm. Better alternatives are available—if we stop extreme oil before it becomes entrenched. Stopping extreme oil would allow alternatives that could reduce already-serious impacts of our energy system, create more and safer jobs, and meet our state’s climate targets, to be ramped up instead. For these reasons, an Extreme Oil Infrastructure Moratorium is necessary, feasible, beneficial, appropriate, and prudent policy for Californians.

*Terms used: In this policy statement extreme oil includes ‘heavy oil’ and ‘natural bitumen’ as those oils are defined by the USGS[i] (tar sands oil), oil produced using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or strip mining, and oil transported by extremely hazardous methods (i.e., via rail). Extreme oil infrastructure includes oil processing (refining), extraction (production), storage, and transport (port, pipeline, and rail facilities) equipment that enables the use of extreme oil.

Harm caused by extreme oil includes but is not limited to pollution, deaths, injuries, climate disruption and economic damage resulting from:

  • Increased frequency and magnitude of toxic spill, fire, explosion, and flare emission incidents impacting workers and residents in and near refineries, ports and rail lines;
  • Increased daily emissions of toxic and smog-forming air pollutants from refineries that switch to extreme oil as a greater portion of oil feedstock processed;
  • Severe and disparate impacts on low income communities of color and oil workers;
  • Increased greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction, upgrading and refining of bitumen and heavy oil and from fracking operations;
  • Contamination and destruction of aquatic habitat near rail lines when trains derail and release tar sands bitumen that sinks in the water and cannot be cleaned up; and
  • Undermining the achievement of climate protection targets and slowing the growth of sustainable energy in California through an unfair subsidy of extreme oil created by allowing its associated environmental, health, safety, and economic impacts.

Irreversible harm is imminent. The new and modified refining, fracking, port and rail spur equipment that could enable extreme oil in California is a huge capital commitment that would become entrenched for the equipment’s operational duration (≈ 30–50 years). This commitment is imminent; refinery, port, and rail infrastructure that could enable extreme oil is proposed in dozens of places throughout the state now.[ii] If it is built now this infrastructure could be used for decades, even if we keep using less and less gasoline in California, since the industry in California is rapidly switching to export its refined products overseas.[iii], [iv] Extreme oil threatens to cause imminent and irreversible harm.

Extreme oil is not needed. An extreme oil moratorium would allow refiners to use conventional crude oil while California continues its technically and economically feasible switch to power our cars with already-proven, currently available technologies[v] such as electricity generated from renewable sources of energy. Moreover, a global scientific consensus holds that we can only burn less than half of currently proven fossil reserves and still have a good chance of avoiding climate change so extreme it could be ‘incompatible’ with human societies and economies as we know them.[vi] Thus, we have both the means, and the societal-and-economic imperative, to leave more than half of the remaining oil resource in the ground. What we do not have is any overriding need to use the part of this resource that is extreme oil.

Extreme oil threatens California’s jobs recovery. Allowing extreme oil impacts here would make using more oil artificially cheap. The unfair subsidy would undermine less polluting energy and transportation alternatives that create more jobs, and slow efforts to make our economy less dependent on oil and less vulnerable to oil price shocks. This jobs threat is important: Government data show that oil refining creates fewer jobs per dollar revenue than any other sector in California’s economy,2, [vii] and ten of the last 11 U.S. recessions followed on sharply rising oil prices.2, [viii] The Moratorium would protect our jobs from this threat while allowing money that could otherwise go to extreme oil infrastructure to instead support cleaner, safer jobs in the badly needed upgrading of existing refineries’ dangerously old and polluting equipment.

California is crucial. The oil industry’s footprint in California accounts for 91% of crude production and 76% of refining capacity in the western continental U.S. (Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington).3 Extreme oil could cause more harm here than in neighboring states, and action here is crucial to prevent its climate impacts.

Emergency action is needed. This imminent threat of severe and irreversible harm warrants emergency orders directing state, regional, and local agencies to halt and suspend actions in furtherance of extreme oil infrastructure permits and construction.



[i] Meyer et al., 2007. Heavy oil and natural bitumen resources in geological basins of the world; US Geological Survey. Open-File Report 2007-1084; http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1084.

[ii] See CBE fact sheets; www.cbecal.org/resources/our-research.

[iii] See U.S. Energy Information Administration data; www.eia.gov/petroleum/data.cfm.

[iv] See San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan areas data in Brookings Inst., 2013; www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/export-nation.

[v] See Williams et al., 2011. Science. ScienceExpress; DOI: 10.1123/science.1208365.

[vi] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014. Fifth Assessment Report.

[vii] U.S. Bureau of the Census, various dates. See Economic Census data for ‘paid employees’ versus for ‘sales, shipments, receipts, revenue or other business done.’

[viii] See National Committee on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill & Offshore Oil Drilling, 2011. Deep Water: the Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Oil Drilling; Report to the President.

To download a PDF of CBE Calls for Extreme Oil Moratorium in California, click HERE.

Lawsuit filed TODAY to Stop Tar Sands in the Bay Area!

This morning CBE sued Phillips 66 and Contra Costa County based on the County’s omission of critical crude quality information and its failure to mitigate the significant environmental, public health and safety impacts from Phillips 66’s Propane Fuel Recovery Project before approving the project and issuing permits.

Read more in CBE’s press release [here] ; and see today’s filings [here].

[Press Release] Next Generation of Climate Policies Released

New climate legislation promises to benefit and protect our communities. Press Release (below) and here. Also, check out the Senates website to find out more on the legislation.

February 10th 2015


Senators include low-income communities in plans for a greener California

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate released a sweeping package of bills aimed at addressing climate change today. The measures include creating a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, divesting California retirement funds from coal, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the state to 50%, reducing use of petroleum, and a study to explore green jobs within the clean energy sector. The announcement of the 4 bill package came from Senate pro Tem de León, Senator Pavley, Senator Hueso, and Senator Leno.


The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) joined Senators during the announcement, applauding their bold leadership and highlighting the need for this “next generation” of climate policies that benefit and protect low-income communities and communities of color, who are overburdened by the effects of air pollution and climate change.


Statements from CEJA and our member organizations


Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Low-income and immigrant Asian Americans in California know that climate change is a serious threat to their quality of life. Under Senator de León’s leadership, environmental justice communities are starting and will continue to benefit from climate policies that bring us closer to the core promises of AB 32: cleaner air for our children, more economic opportunities for our neighborhoods, and a healthier climate for our planet.

Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director


Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

We strongly support the Senate’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and look forward to working with them to emphasize the health and job-creating benefits of increased reductions directly from sources in California. Direct reductions will bring desperately needed air pollution reductions and good jobs, which are particularly important to communities in the Central Valley, who suffer from some of the worst air pollution and highest poverty levels in the country.

Caroline Farrell, Executive Director


Communities for a Better Environment

We are enthusiastic and applaud the leadership of Senator de León in proposing aggressive targets in reducing petroleum fuel usage in California.  We know that moving towards carbon-free transportation, promoting clean alternative options, and enhancing public transit is a win-win strategy that enhances public health and allows Californians to invest their money in their own state, as opposed to sending it out to oil companies.  We look forward to working with Senator de León and other elected officials and implementing agencies to make sure that low-income communities of color are given priority in these investment decisions, and communities most in need benefit significantly from this new green economy.

Byron Gudiel, Executive Director


California Environmental Justice Alliance

The California Environmental Justice Alliance supports the bold climate policies of the Senate leadership. Low-income communities and communities of color have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution for too long, and these policies will equitably reduce emissions in all communities while bringing good jobs to communities that most need them. California needs a strong renewable energy mandate to get to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 with a clear roadmap to transition off of fossil fuels.

Strela Cervas, Co-Coordinator


Media Contacts

Amy Vanderwarker, California Environmental Justice Alliance, (510) 504-8413

Parin Shah, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, (415) 286-7850

Sofia Parino, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (916) 716-2398

Bahram Fazeli, Communities for a Better Environment, (310) 251-1128




9 Key Environmental Justice and Climate Policy Issues for 2015

With a new generation of statewide climate and renewable energy policies being drafted, the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) would like to share our analysis on some of the key environmental justice and climate issues that are critical to include in the policy proposals that are being formulated in the Legislature.


  1. Pass post-2020 greenhouse gas emission targets, as outlined in SB 32. The target should include short-lived climate pollutants and other co-pollutants.


  1. Ensure any post-2020 climate goals are achieved through direct emission reductions, with a focus on communities already overburdened with pollution.


  1. Transition California to 100 % renewable energy by 2050, with an interim target of 60% renewables by 2030.


  1. Bring small-scale renewable energy into the communities most impacted through a feed-in tariff.


  1. Create dedicated Environmental Justice staff at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Given the range and depth of environmental justice issues at stake within energy, air quality and statewide climate policy, both CPUC and CARB need dedicated staffing with sufficient authority to support implementation of Environmental Justice policies and ensure other policies address Environmental Justice needs.


  1. Increase climate investments in disadvantaged communities by, at a minimum, doubling the carve-out for disadvantaged communities within the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to 50%.


  1. End our reliance on fossil fuel in the transportation sector, including: reducing emissions from goods movement and freight, and aggressively enhance access to clean transportation alternatives and clean, affordable public transit, especially for low-income Californians. This can be accomplished through a wide range of equity measures including rebates, increased access to charging facilities, financing assistance programs, and car-sharing options.


  1. Codify the already established loading order at the California Public Utilities Commission. The state has already prioritized renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation, and demand response. These strategies should be implemented aggressively over the development of new energy sources, such as natural gas power plants.


  1. Ensure energy efficiency programs create high-road, long-term, accessible jobs for communities who have suffered from chronic under and unemployment.


About the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA)

CEJA is a statewide, community-led alliance that works to achieve environmental justice by advancing policy solutions. We unite the powerful local organizing of our members in the communities most impacted by environmental hazards – low-income communities and communities of color – to create comprehensive opportunities for change at a statewide level. We build the power of communities across California to create policies that will alleviate poverty and pollution.


All together, we represent approximately 15,000 Latino, Asian Pacific American, and African American residents. Our members are:

  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
  • Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • Environmental Health Coalition
  • People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights


[Press Release] Residents Call for Shut Down of Exide

Communities demand that the DTSC deny hazardous waste facility permit. Read more, here.


Robert Cabrales, CBE rcabrales@cbecal.org 323-826-9771, x 107
mark! Lopez, EYCEJ MLopez@eycej.org 323-263-2113
Monsignor John Moretta 323-261-5750


Monday, February 9, 2015


Exide Neighbors Demand that the DTSC and Elected Officials

Deny Hazardous Waste Facility Permit

Nearly 200 residents from Boyle Heights to Maywood and Huntington Park gathered in a rally today to call on state officials to close down a lead-acid battery recycling plant in the City of Vernon. Spirited chanting of “stand by our side, shut down Exide,” was followed by impassioned testimony of residents and environmental justice advocates.

The plant, owned by Exide Technologies, is notoriously known for emitting dangerous levels of lead and arsenic into neighboring communities, and discharging at least 1,500 pounds of lead into the LA River watershed. Both Exide and the DTSC have come under fire in recent years, as residents have demanded that the state revoke the temporary permit that has allowed the facility to operate for over 30 years.

The protest was in response to eight new violations issued against Exide by the DTSC little over a week ago, including for using unauthorized tanks to treat contaminated sludge and having inadequate safeguards against battery acid spills. The violations come even as the plant is temporarily closed pursuant to orders of abatement issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Residents expressed indignation and outrage at the DTSC’s failure to deny Exide a pending application for a hazardous waste permit required under federal law, which has been languishing within the agency since it was first filed in 1988. The plant has since developed a long record of state and federal law violations.

Rally participants accused the DTSC of environmental racism, alleging that the majority Latino, working-class demographics of affected communities has played a role in the agency’s failure to close Exide. Milton Hernandez-Nimatuj, a Youth Organizer with Communities for a Better Environment, stated, “DTSC’s actions show that it has placed Exide’s and the State’s financial interests above the Latino communities’ human rights to breath clean air and live in safe communities.” Hernandez-Nimatuj pointed out that “an almost identical Exide facility was closed down by leaders of Frisco, Texas, an affluent, White-majority town, and yet the DTSC has opted to negotiate with Exide.” The DTSC has a history of imposing on Exide light fines, a patchwork of enforcement orders, and entering into settlement agreements.

In June 2014, the DTSC issued Exide a Third Notice of Deficiency, which under state law is a facility’s last opportunity to qualify for a hazardous waste permit. Rather than initiate permit denial proceedings, the agency entered into a settlement agreement in which Exide’s ongoing deficiencies were resolved by way

of settlement. Exide stated in a court filing that the settlement “paves the way for [it] to reopen the Vernon Facility and proceed with the final permit application process.” The DTSC struck the deal after previously determining that the plant posed an imminent and substantial danger to public health, worker safety and the environment, and after the SCAQMD concluded that is posed the greatest cancer risk to Southern California of the 450 facilities it has ever regulated.

Monsignor John Moretta and parishioners of Resurrection Church made a notable presence at the rally. Father Moretta, a well-known community leader and champion of local environmental justice issues, remarked, “Surely our political leadership agrees that the safety and health of 100,000 people is more important than 100 jobs which pose grave dangers to workers. Keep Exide closed. Help workers re-tool with clean jobs.”

mark! Lopez, Director of Eastyard Communities for Environmental Justice, testified that remediation efforts pursuant to the settlement agreement are also flawed. Over 60% of 108 homes that have had soil testing contain high-risk lead levels, and over 20% contain over 1,000 ppm of lead, which is classified as hazardous waste. According to Lopez, the remediation covers only a small residential area, and fails to reach other affected areas. Lopez stated, “My grandmother and mother fought against Exide in the 90’s. I’m standing here, fighting to shut down Exide permanently, so my toddler daughters won’t have to fight Exide to protect their children’s health in the future.”

According to Gladys Limón, staff attorney at CBE, state law prohibits the DTSC from granting Exide a hazardous waste permit if certain requirements are unmet, such as having an effective hazardous waste treatment process – the subject of the recently issued violations. Limón explained that, “The DTSC has a duty to initiate a permit denial process based on Exide’s historical and ongoing violations. It is reckless and creates dangerous precedent to allow a facility that has placed unconscionable health burdens on its workers and surrounding communities, to continue to operate.”

Exide currently faces various lawsuits, including from the AQMD and residents, as well as a federal criminal investigation arising from the Vernon plant’s lead and arsenic contamination. The LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to also initiate legal proceedings last November.


CBE Supports Striking Refinery Workers

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) supports the refinery workers in the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) in their ongoing nationwide strike against oil refining corporations in the U.S.

At stake are worker health and safety rights—and, ultimately, our environmental health and safety, and yours.

Environmental justice demands everyone’s right to a safe and healthy work environment and challenges the false choice that would force us to choose between our health and our jobs. Indeed, fighting for worker rights protects community health and safety.

Our research documents a grim reality in refinery communities: preventable ‘incidents’ injure and kill workers and nearby residents alike while oil companies that fight stronger oversight still cut corners on safety in refineries. The workers on the front line, operating the plants, are our last line of defense against another toxic spill, fire, or explosion.

Worker rights are critical, also, to protecting our climate. The transformation from fossil energy to sustainable energy that we need to avert a climate disaster is a big job that will take all of us, and our solution needs to take care of all of us. CBE’s vision for climate justice demands a ‘just transition’ for workers, and that starts with worker rights.

The fight for clean, safe jobs is your fight too. We can be healthier and safer together.

Articles on the oil workers struggle:
East Bay USW Tesoro Workers Strike

Strike to Shutdown Major Bay Area Refinery

White House urges USW to strangle oil workers’ strike