‘We need a fossil fuel transition that supports workers and communities’: Diverse group sends letter to Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

Friday November 20, 2020

Environmental, public health advocates applaud recent climate emergency declaration while calling for planned, equitable shift to clean energy economy

MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA — Just weeks after Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors declared a climate emergency in their county, a diverse group of environmental and public health advocates sent a letter to the Board calling for a planned and equitable transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy, in what many are calling a “just transition” that supports refinery workers and frontline communities.

“We applaud your recent Declaration of a Climate Emergency in Contra Costa County, which underlines the need to ‘plan for a ‘just transition’ away from a fossil-fuel dependent economy.’ In furtherance of this goal, we seek your immediate action to ensure just transitions for workers and communities threatened with sudden abandonment by refineries located in the County. We believe climate protection must go hand in hand with environmental and economic justice,” reads the opening paragraph of the letter. 

The letter highlights concerns over recent news regarding changes to traditional refinery operations in Contra Costa County — including Marathon’s announcement of a permanent end to crude oil processing at its Martinez refinery, and Phillips 66’s notice of an impending partial closure of its San Francisco Refinery facilities in Rodeo, Franklin Canyon, and Arroyo Grande. 

Both companies have proposed changes that would significantly decrease the production of non-petroleum fuels, which will involve shuttering large portions of the refinery. Neither company has identified plans for full cleanups of their industrial sites, nor have they made commitments to support the wages, health care, or pensions of workers whose jobs are threatened by these changes.

“The large oil companies who have for so long made their profits in Contra Costa County’s local communities ought to be the ones to pay the steep cost associated with their departure,” reads the letter.

The letter also identifies how the communities facing shuttered refinery operations are ultimately at risk for future prospects for environmentally healthy and economically sustainable development.

“These refinery downsizings — which may well be a harbinger of additional closures in the future — will jeopardize not just the livelihoods of the refinery employees, but those of thousands of families in the surrounding communities whose jobs are indirectly dependent upon the existence of the refineries. Refinery downsizing and shutdown also threaten a significant portion of the tax base upon which community government and essential services depend,” reads the letter. 

The letter outlines the following recommendations to Contra Costa County for an equitable, planned “just transition” for refinery workers and frontline communities:

  • Use local land use authority to secure commitments from Marathon and Phillips 66 to cover direct and indirect costs associated with downsizing and ultimate decommissioning of refinery operations
  • Pass an ordinance or resolution similar to those passed in King County (Seattle) and Multnomah County (Portland) that aims to establish financial accountability requirements for refineries and other fossil fuel infrastructure as part of a holistic risk management and “just transition” strategy
  • Strongly advocate for state action supporting “just transitions” for fossil fuel workers and communities, as well as full site cleanups

The letter was sent to members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors as well as  U.S. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson, Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development Director John Kopchik, and Contra Costa County Sustainability Coordinator Jody London.

The letter was signed by 57 environmental, public health, and community organizations, including:Stand.earth, NRDC, 350 Bay Area, Community Energy reSource, Rodeo Citizens Association, San Francisco Baykeeper, Sunflower Alliance, Crockett-Rodeo United in Defense of the Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Interfaith Climate Action Network of Contra Costa County, Central California Asthma Collaborative, and Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

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Media contacts: 
Matt Krogh, U.S. Oil & Gas Program Director, mattkrogh@stand.earth, +1 360 820 2938
Kari Birdseye, NRDC, kbirdseye@nrdc.org, +1 415 875 8243