Santa Ana City Council passes courageous, visionary commitment to address climate change and environmental pollution

Wednesday September 08, 2021

Santa Ana becomes 4th U.S. city to endorse Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

On Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Santa Ana City Council committed to taking comprehensive action that will address the twin citywide crises of climate change and environmental pollution. Environmental group Stand.earth’s SAFE Cities movement heralded the council’s 6-1 vote to approve the Climate Emergency Resolution, because it identifies and supports solutions that are commensurate with the scale of environmental and public health problems that have been ignored or delayed for far too long.

In declaring a climate emergency, the resolution commits Santa Ana to developing policies as well as courses of action that decarbonize and electrify transportation and buildings, restrict expansion of fossil fuel combustion, transport, and infrastructure, and limit or stop exposure to lead and other toxic pollutants through remediation and cleanup efforts. 

The resolution also makes Santa Ana the 4th city in the United States to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, joining a global movement alongside major cities like Los Angeles, Barcelona, Vancouver and Sydney, in addition to several others around the world. The treaty’s signatory governments agree to block any expansion of the fossil fuel industry within their boundaries and borders. Hundreds of organizations representing thousands more individuals have also joined the call for world leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion, including 1,700+ scientists and 101 Nobel Laureates such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“I brought this resolution to the council because the status quo is unacceptable,” said Jessie Lopez, Santa Ana City Council Member for Ward 3. “It is unacceptable that we permit our children to play on surfaces contaminated with lead, to breathe air polluted with fossil fuels, and to suffer through worsening heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. Based on the hard work and input of nearly a dozen community groups, this resolution includes concrete steps and actions that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, remove lead from soil, expand green spaces, and bring sustainable, permanent jobs to expand our economy and support new clean energy industries.”

During earlier hearings on the resolution, the council heard testimony from residents who advocated taking major, immediate action to address the soil lead contamination crisis in Santa Ana. The resolution states the council’s intent to investigate and consider implementing policies that prevent exposure from new and existing sources, as well as ensuring that residents are not displaced as the result of a cleanup and remediation efforts.

Lead contamination in Santa Ana is an intersectional social and environmental justice issue that disproportionately impacts the city’s most marginalized communities. Lead levels that are higher than those safely permitted by experts as well as state environmental health regulators have been detected in numerous neighborhoods throughout the city, including in residential locations serving as play areas for children, according to Orange County Environmental Justice. A new study published on May 6 traced sources of heavy metal contamination in Santa Ana, including soil lead. The study determined that communities and neighborhoods living closer to highways, roadways, metal-working industries, and the John Wayne Airport faced disproportionately higher health risks due to their exposure to this contamination. In April, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment released new data and mapsets showing that these neighborhoods and their corresponding U.S. Census tracts had pollution burden assessments that were above the 70th percentile relative to other communities in California, and in some cases were above the 99th percentile.

“Santa Ana came in above 70 percent in most of those categories,” Erica Gonzalez, a resident of Santa Ana’s Delhi neighborhood and an organizer with Chicanxs Unidxs De Orange County, told the council at a hearing this spring. “One of the categories that we came out the highest was lead pollution. We were at 99 percent in some areas of the city. We can only rely on each other. We really only have each other. We are in a very unique situation. We have the funds. We have the resources. We have the people that have the knowledge. All we need to do is build those bridges, collaborate, and include the community."

More public testimony and comments have recognized the urgent need for action to address the climate crisis, and applauded the council’s bold vision and plan.

“I heard a caller say that we need to table (the resolution),” said Victor Bustos, resident of Santa Ana’s Eastside neighborhood. “Climate change is happening right in front of us. It’s here. If we keep tabling it, when will we do something? It’s like asking our kids, ‘Hey, let’s table your health for later. Let’s table your future for later. We’ll talk about it when it’s a bigger problem.’” 

“The Santa Ana City Council’s vote is further proof of the powerful solutions that happen when the environmental justice and climate movements come together and lift one another up,” said Nathan Taft, SAFE Cities’ Senior Digital Campaigner and Santa Ana resident. “I am proud to call this city my home. I am proud of how the City Council’s action recognizes the importance of safeguards for community members who’ve lived for years with the dangers posed by fossil fuel pollution, lead contamination, and other environmental toxins. The Council’s plans will address the climate crisis and strengthen our local workforce as we make a just transition to a decarbonized economy.”

“The scale of the climate crisis calls for urgent, collective action. The City Council’s vote today is helping move the dial to inspire and pressure other cities to sign on to this global movement particularly after the IPCC’s climate report last month signaling code red to humanity,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Stand.earth and Chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. “Every city counts for a just transition and Santa Ana is no exception. As a city subject to hazardous lead levels and reliance on methane gas for cooking, this vote is just as much one for people and community as it is for the environment.”

More about the Climate Emergency Resolution:
To put their plans into action, the council voted to set a target of achieving 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045. The city aims to investigate electrifying buildings and transportation through use of Reach Codes, building microgrids, creating community renewable energy programs, and to explore joining the Orange County Power Authority’s Community Choice Aggregation program that expands access to more renewable energy resources. 

One of the most significant ways to lessen the impact on climate change for low-income communities and communities of color is to create more parks and protect open spaces that would otherwise be used for urban development. Recently ranked as the city with the third-highest population density in California, Santa Ana only has 4 percent of its land dedicated to parks and recreation. With the resolution, the council commits to supporting land use that will provide more parks and open space, particularly in prime areas for urban development, in communities that currently lack access to safe and open spaces and parks, and in areas where they can have an outsized impact on reducing urban heat island effect.

"Seven out of the last 10 years have been the warmest on record, and the whole last decade was the warmest in human history,” said Tristan Miller, Vice Chair of Climate Reality OC and a Santa Ana resident. “Last summer, we saw rolling blackouts in California, devastating fire season, and communities suffering. Santa Ana is ranked as the highest risk for heat-related illness according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This reality implores us to act.  We cannot put it off any longer.  
 
The good news is that we already have the solutions - clean renewable energy is more affordable that fossil fuels. More green spaces will bring our community together and produce cleaner air. A green economy will spur more jobs. Now is the time to change the path our city is on and create a vibrant and healthy community that Santa Ana is meant to be. There is no reason not to act."

More about SAFE Cities:
SAFE Cities is a growing movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials phasing out fossil fuels and fast-tracking clean energy solutions to ensure a just transition. Already dozens of cities and counties across the US – and several more around the globe – have passed concrete policies to keep their communities SAFE from fossil fuels, build renewable energy infrastructure, and create good, long-term jobs.

More about the Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty:
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is spurring international cooperation to end new development of fossil fuels, phase out existing production within the agreed climate limit of 1.5°C, and develop plans to support workers, communities and countries dependent on fossil fuels to create secure and healthy livelihoods. 

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and SAFE Cities are sister campaigns working toward the same goal – an equitable world safe from fossil fuels. While SAFE Cities are a locally based solution that people in every community in the world can act on without delay to achieve a just transition, the Treaty Initiative goes global by encouraging first mover governments to act now while spotlighting the need for global cooperation in a time of global crisis. Together they tackle the climate emergency at all levels of government to ensure high-level ambition is paired with accountable execution on the ground.
 

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Media contacts: 

Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator, safemedia@stand.earth, +1 415 532 3817 (Pacific Time)
Matt Krogh, U.S. Oil & Gas Campaigns Director, matt@stand.earth, +1 360 820 2938 (Pacific Time)