FAQS about SAFE

General questions – start here:

Check the SAFE map and see if others are already organizing in your area. From there you can sign up to join an existing group or start your own. Or, you can sign up to get involved by clicking here. Once you do that we’ll reach out by email to get you information on next steps.

SAFE is a movement of neighbours, local groups, and elected officials taking concrete, meaningful action to protect communities and address the climate crisis. Put simply: we’re a growing network of communities Standing Against Fossil Fuel Expansion (SAFE).

Right now, there’s more oil, gas and coal approved for development than the world can safely burn and communities around the globe are being poisoned. At the same time, the climate movement has never been more powerful – transformative change is within our reach. If we want a safe future, one of the most important things we can do is keep fossil fuels in the ground, and one of the most effective places this can happen is at the local level.

Fighting fossil fuel threats one at a time can feel like playing the world’s most exhausting and unfun game of whack-a-mole. One with no end in sight. If you're in a community on the frontline of the fossil fuel industry you already know this well – no sooner have you defeated a massive coal terminal proposal then a tar sands pipeline pops up. Or you’re already fighting a refinery expansion or an oil-by-rail plan when industry comes again with plans to build a giant, explosive LNG facility.

The SAFE movement wants to end all that by blocking fossil fuel infrastructure projects before they’re even proposed – it's time to stop playing defense, and go on the offensive.

Fossil fuel expansion refers to the buildout any infrastructure that allows for more fossil fuels to be extracted, shipped, and refined. This includes, but is not limited to oil and gas wells, coal mines, pipelines, oil train routes, terminals, refineries, storage facilities, and more.

The fossil fuel industry wants to build and expand these facilities, even though the science shows our climate can’t handle any new fossil fuel projects and local communities are at increased risk from accidents and pollution. We can’t let that happen.

By putting in place policies to block new fossil fuel developments before proposals are even drafted.

In many countries around the world – including the US – local governments have the power to use zoning and land use laws (yes, those policies that say what can be built and what kind of activities can happen where) to protect local health and public safety. That’s because it’s part of their job to make sure their communities can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and avoid risking explosions near homes and schools.

The catch? Often, local governments face pressure from the oil and gas lobby, and they need to know that community members will have their backs if they stand up to big oil. By showing support for good zoning and land use laws (and let’s be honest, sometimes applying a little pressure of your own), you can help your local Council members pass SAFE policies and play a crucial leadership role in keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Already cities across the US are passing groundbreaking policies that block new fossil fuel developments, and this movement has the potential to spread all over the world.

Already more than half a dozen towns and counties across the US have passed SAFE policies, along with a handful of countries (way to go France, Costa Rica, Belize, and New Zealand!). We are working to pass SAFE policies in cities, ports, counties, states, and countries. Learn more about places that have passed SAFE policies here.

SAFE policies will keep all community members safer, and will especially benefit people living near proposed refineries, LNG terminals, oil storage facilities or other dangerous fossil fuel projects.

Indigenous people, people of color, and low income communities and neighborhoods are the most likely to be negatively impacted by the fossil fuel industry. Stopping dirty energy expansion will keep neighborhoods on the front lines safe from additional dangers and harms.

SAFE policies should never result in wealthy communities pushing fossil fuel infrastructure into poorer communities – SAFE policies can and should protect us all. At Stand.earth we’re committed to giving extra support, including eventually some regranting support, to SAFE efforts in neighborhoods that are predominantly Indigenous, people of color, and/or low income.

SAFE works well alongside other efforts to protect communities and to move us off fossil fuels, and there are three important ways that SAFE is different:

  1. It’s local action. In an era where federal protections are being deliberately dismantled, actions by local people and elected officials using local laws are incredibly important.
  2. It offers local and global protection. People who use the SAFE strategy are creating long term protections for their communities, especially those most impacted by the fossil fuel industry, and for people around the world. Their SAFE work says no to more local danger from pollution and accidents, and no to more climate chaos around the world.
  3. It’s lasting. SAFE gives people the strategy and resources to block projects before the companies behind them even apply for permits. No more “whack-a-mole” where communities stop one project but there are more waiting.

Building a local movement to pass laws is not easy but it is effective. You don’t need to be an expert in government, zoning, or activism, but you do have to have passion and commitment. You also have to be willing to work with people in your community to build, with support from Stand.earth, a movement that can get the job done. and you won’t do it alone. More on support and resources in the next section.

If you’re ready to start

Check the SAFE map and see if others are already organizing in your area. From there you can sign up to join an existing group or start your own. Or, you can sign up to get involved by clicking here. Once you do that we’ll reach out by email to get you information on next steps.

Yes! We have samples to draw from and experts to offer legal analysis to help create strong SAFE policies. Here are some examples of successful regulation.

Stand.earth supports SAFE with a team experienced in stopping fossil fuel expansion and providing resources to build people power. We’ll help you build a local email and phone number list, we’ll get you access to powerful online campaigning tools, and we will connect you to legal analysis and support, draft policy language, case studies of successful SAFE campaigns, and other tools you need. You can check out some of the resources here. Anne Pernick is one of our staffers who supports people in the SAFE network. You can reach her by email at SAFE@stand.earth. She’ll answer your questions and provide resources or connect you with other Stand.earth staff members for the information and resources you need. If you want Anne to call you, include your phone number in your email.

Local governments have broad authority to protect the health and safety of the community through land use regulations. The specifics are different from state to state, and the details matter. Fossil fuel companies may challenge SAFE policies in the hopes of preserving business as usual. Done right, the rules can hold up in court. Local governments have had their rules upheld in South Portland, Maine and in Portland, Oregon. In Whatcom County, Washington, local leaders hired a law firm to help understand the legal landscape and we’re using this report and other resources to strengthen the SAFE movement

If you're already working in your community on fossil fuels, environmental justice, climate, pollution, toxics, etc.

Yes, your group can make SAFE work part of your efforts.

Yes, groups can be part of the SAFE network and movement under their own names.

The SAFE approach is about stopping future projects, but through the SAFE network and Stand.earth staff you can get connected to people who can help with projects that are already online or approved. If you already have one project in or coming to your community, others are likely to follow. SAFE can help you stop those future projects.

For elected officials

Check the SAFE map and see if others are already organizing in your area. From there you can sign up to join an existing group or start your own. Or, you can sign up to get involved by clicking here. Once you do that we’ll reach out by email to get you information on next steps.

Already more than half a dozen towns and counties across the US have passed SAFE policies, along with a handful of countries (way to go France, Costa Rica, Belize, and New Zealand!). We are working to pass SAFE policies in cities, ports, counties, states, and countries. Learn more about places that have passed SAFE policies here.

Yes, we will connect you with other elected officials working on SAFE policies, legal experts, and other resources.

Not sure SAFE can work where you are

This is a global movement – anyone anywhere in the world is invited to join the movement and add yourself to the SAFE map. Please sign up here. To become a SAFE City globally, you need to pass a local government resolution affirming the need to stop fossil fuel expansion. We can’t yet provide legal, policy or organizing support to groups outside the US, but we’re partnering with local organizations who are able to advance the details where they are. If you’re a local group outside the U.S. interested in partnering, please get in touch!