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250 local elected officials call on California governor to quit issuing oil-drilling permits

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Elected officials from five Northern California counties, including one Sonoma County supervisor and 14 local city council members, have signed a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him — in the name of fighting climate change — to halt approving permits for new oil and gas wells.

They were among 250 elected officials statewide urging the outgoing governor to “walk his talk” on climate issues in the wake of hosting the Global Climate Action Summit last week in San Francisco.

“This is the bold climate leadership we urgently need to protect our public health, communities, economies and our future,” the group, Elected Officials to Protect California, said Monday. Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, one of 20 Northern California officials signing the letter, challenged Brown’s record, which includes issuing more than 20,000 permits for new wells.

“If you’re going to stand up as a climate change champion, you should be doing everything possible to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions,” she said. “It’s a little hypocritical.”

The environmental battle is “not just about frothy headlines ... it’s about policy. It’s really critical to stop drilling in California,” Hopkins said.

California is committed to cutting oil consumption in half, while oil production has dropped 56 percent, said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.

Of the roughly 20,000 drilling permits granted since 2011, just 1,495 were issued over the past two years, tracking the drop in statewide production and global price of oil, he said in an email.

“There’s a reason the White House and fossil fuel companies fight California on almost a daily basis — no jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere is doing more on climate,” Westrup said.

Debora Fudge, a Windsor town councilwoman who signed the letter, acknowledged Brown’s record on oil drilling was imperfect.

“He’s not batting a 1.000,” she said. “He’s at .900.”

“I know what a good environmental governor he’s been,” said Fudge, who worked in Brown’s office of planning and research in the early 1980s. “I would never call the governor a hypocrite.”

Fudge noted that Brown, who will be termed out following the November election, recently signed into law a measure mandating 100 percent of the state’s energy must be renewable by 2045. His administration’s approval of thousands of oil wells “seemed contradictory to me,” she said.

“I didn’t realize there was so much oil being extracted in the state,” Fudge said.

California was the nation’s fourth leading oil-producing state last year, behind Texas, North Dakota and Alaska, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

California’s crude oil “is some of the dirtiest and most climate-changing crude in the world,” the elected officials group said, comparing much of it to Canada’s tar sands oil.

Amy Harrington, a Sonoma city council member who also signed the letter, said ending oil drilling and moving toward renewable energy are both important “if we’re committed to saving the planet.”

As a Sonoma Clean Power board member, Harrington said she has seen “how feasible it is to have 100 percent renewable, clean energy.”

Santa Rosa council members Jack Tibbetts and Julie Combs also signed the letter, along with officials from Marin, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

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