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February 10, 2022

California communities hurt most by pollution encouraged by CPUC decision on the future of greenhouse gas emissions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 10, 2022

CONTACT:

Kristiana Faddoul, kristiana.faddoul@sierraclub.org, (602) 475-8459 

Marla Wilson, marla@resource-media.org, (415) 971-9038

Ari Eisenstadt, ari@caleja.org, (347) 743-1546

California communities hurt most by pollution encouraged by CPUC decision on the future of greenhouse gas emissions

Advocates call on state leaders, agencies, and utilities to do more to ensure a transition away from fossil fuels such as gas-fired power and to prioritize communities of color and working families

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted a proposal that significantly guides California toward a carbon-free future. The Proposed Decision (PD) is the result of years of legal conversations between parties to the proceeding including the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and investor-owned utilities. 

The decision recommends that by 2030, our state’s electricity sector, including gas-fired power, stick to an annual limit of 38 million metric tons (MMT) of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a significant improvement from the current limit of 46 MMT, but nowhere near enough to meet the scale of the climate crisis nor enough to spare frontline communities from incurring disproportionately poor air quality.

The CPUC decision will have ripple effects and comes at a time when advocates are urging state leaders to incorporate funding for a safe and reliable fossil fuel phaseout in this year’s budget – prioritizing renewable energy and storage procurement, including local clean energy for disadvantaged communities and other demand-side resources like rooftop solar, community resilience centers, and other community-based climate solutions. 

In response, members of the Regenerate California campaign issued the following statement: 

“This new overarching emissions reduction goal moves the state closer to meeting its SB 100 goals of decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2045 – but leaves frontline communities in a lurch in the meantime,” said Francis Yang, Senior Organizer with the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign. 

Shana Lazerow, Legal Director for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) added, “While not allowing additional gas procurement is important, the utilities need to be targeting clean energy for frontline communities in the LA Basin and Fresno, so the dirty, dangerous gas plants in these communities can retire, and so people’s rates don’t keep going up to pay for double-procuring the resources for a system that is reliable statewide and locally.” 

“We will continue to advocate for lower greenhouse gas limits. We want to ensure the working families and communities harmed most by fossil-fuel pollution and gas-fired power plants are the first to receive the benefits of an economy powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Janet Bernabe, Organizing Director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ). “We know that we need to stop burning fossil fuels – between fires and smog days, gas plants suck the life out of the nearby communities, and they waste our money.”

About the Proposed Decision adopted by the CPUC

One of the main ways the CPUC directs climate change mitigation is through its biannual Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) proceeding, which ultimately directs the activities of all privately-owned utilities in the state for the next two years. On Dec. 22, 2021, the IRP planning process came to a head when the CPUC issued a proposed set of guidelines for utility energy procurement in a Proposed Decision (PD). The recommendations in the PD, written by Administrative Law Judge Julie Fitch, have a direct impact on California’s yearly contribution to climate change, on the quality of the air that we breathe, and on our progress toward fighting environmental racism. 

The PD denied CEJA and Sierra Club’s request to order the utilities to tap clean energy to be placed in frontline communities in the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley in order to improve air quality. Regenerate California will keep demanding the PUC prioritize communities of color and low-income communities in the transition away from fossil fuels. 

The Decision also declined to authorize new gas procurement in a win for environmental and EJ advocates. California does not need gas to meet the state’s energy demand, and it is inconsistent with the state’s air quality and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. According to expert modeling, California could still reliably meet its energy needs if 28 of the 89 gas plants in CAISO territory were taken offline right now, without any additional gas resources added to the grid. Gas plants represent a barrier to clean energy access for frontline communities, complicating California’s commitment to become a 100 percent clean energy state by 2045. Investing in energy efficiency and renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal already costs less than gas, and the costs are continuing to decline.

About the Regenerate CA campaign

Regenerate California is a coalition of environmental and economic justice advocates led by the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and the Sierra Club who, together, share a vision for California where we run on 100 percent clean renewable energy – ensuring our children grow up breathing clean air and the most impacted communities have access to renewable energy and local jobs. We have a vision to transition off of dirty and dangerous gas plants in California and to create a regenerative and just clean energy economy. 

To learn more about Regenerate California, visit www.regeneratecalifornia.org.

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