July 2, 2016

Oakland City Council unanimously supports ban on coal exports

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

On Monday, the Oakland City Council finally acted on its promise to protect the Bay Area by blocking coal exports through Oakland. Following the release of studies on the devastating public health and safety impacts of coal, the Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke (a.k.a. petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining) in Oakland.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilmember Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf, is paired with a resolution applying the coal ban to the export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment project — thereby blocking a dirty deal that would have made Oakland into the West Coast’s largest coal exporter (read more at the bottom of this article).

Before the ordinance becomes law, it needs to get council approval one more time at a second reading on July 19. You can help us clear this final hurdle: Send a message to the City Council thanking them for standing up for our health and safety, and asking them to approve the ordinance at the July 19 meeting.

Once passed, the ordinance will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality, would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and heart disease.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

By blocking this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet.  Because the coal industry is on the rocks — with coal-fired power plants closing across the country and demand falling worldwide — blocking this export deal means the coal will likely stay in the ground. That is the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.

After Monday’s City Council vote, local Sierra Club organizer Brittany King said: “Once the Council votes to confirm the ordinance to ban coal and petcoke on July 19th, we can finally get back to making a plan for the Oakland Army Base that will create good jobs for our community without sacrificing our climate and our health. It’s time for Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges to listen to the people of Oakland, who stood up today and said very clearly: there will be no coal in Oakland.”

This victory was only possible because of the dedicated advocacy of Bay Area residents, workers, healthcare professionals, small businesses, and elected officials over 15 months. Thank you for all you’ve done to help keep dirty coal in the ground!

Background:

A portion of the former Oakland Army Base is being developed as a bulk export facility, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT). CCIG, the developer, promised not include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but now they have solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that could allow the state to export up to 10 million tons of coal from their mines each year. A Utah funding body approved $53 million to buy space at Oakland Bulk Terminal for these exports. This deal is being conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free. While the Mayor, members of the council and residents have demanded a stop to these talks, the developer has yet to abandon the plans.

Those opposing the plan to export coal through Oakland have voiced concerns over how this decision will affect the community’s safety, the environment, and public health. According to a national train company, each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails. Additionally, this deal will stifle California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.

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Air District commits to studying refinery pollution caps

rodeo-p66-refineryThe community-worker coalition that’s been fighting for years to limit pollution from Bay Area refineries won a significant victory on June 15th. The Air District board directed its staff to evaluate our proposal for immediate, numerical caps on refinery emissions, along with three other proposals. This move came despite strong opposition from Air District staff, who argued that numerical caps on greenhouse gases are pointless and that numerical limits on all forms of pollution are legally questionable.

The next challenge for the coalition will be getting the Air District to move fast enough to prevent the refineries from bringing in a major influx of extra-polluting crude oil from Canadian tar sands.

In the June 15th board meeting of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, staff presented four proposals for controlling refinery emissions:

  • Analyze each refinery’s total energy efficiency as a way of reducing greenhouse gases
  • Continue the current program of making rules for reducing greenhouse gas and toxic emissions by separately analyzing each process in the refinery.
  • Place an immediate overall cap on greenhouse gas and toxic emissions from each refinery
  • Develop a Bay-Area-wide program for reducing emissions of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas)

The staff recommended that the board authorize further analysis of three of these proposals. It recommended dropping the community-worker proposal, using the same arguments offered before: that emissions caps may not be legally defensible and could conflict with the state’s cap-and-trade process for greenhouse gas emissions.

After strong arguments from the community-worker coalition and allies on the board, however, the board directed the staff to prepare an official Environmental Impact Review of each of the proposals. In more than two years since the coalition has been advocating these caps, the staff has failed to produce a detailed analysis of this proposal, despite numerous board requests. So this clear board direction represents a major advance for the environmental, community, and labor groups.

Board members John Avalos of San Francisco, Rebecca Kaplan of Oakland, and John Gioia, the Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes four oil refineries, joined the community-worker coalition in insisting on a full review of all four proposals.

It should be possible to produce the Environmental Impact Reviews, provide a period for the public to comment, and produce revised reviews before the BAAQMD’s next board meeting in September. But given the slow pace of work on refinery emissions rules in the past, the community-worker coalition intends to keep pushing for a September report, so it will be possible to adopt final rules before the end of the year.

There’s also the question of what topics the Environmental Impact Review will include. In the June 15 meeting, Board member Kaplan insisted that the EIR must include an estimate of the health impacts of the emissions increases that would occur if caps are not adopted.

Background

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has been discussing methods for limiting refinery pollution for more than three years. More than two years ago the community-worker coalition submitted its proposal: Tell refineries they’re not allowed to increase the levels of pollution they emit, starting now.

In addition to limiting harm to health and the climate, this proposal is critical for stopping Bay Area refineries from bringing in large amounts of crude oil from Canadian tar sands. Because tar sands oil takes so much energy to process, and because it spews out such large amounts of pollution that’s harmful to health, a cap on refinery emissions would effectively prevent an increase in tar sands refining. Scientists have stated that to prevent runaway climate disaster, the tar sands oil has to stay in the ground.

Bay Area refineries are turning to tar sands crude because their traditional sources of crude oil – in California and Alaska – are drying up. Tar sands oil producers, for their part, are increasingly looking to the Bay Area as an outlet for their product, since the Keystone XL pipeline was defeated, and Canadian First Nations are strongly resisting the shipment of tar sands oil through their territories. And Bay Area refineries, already equipped to handle “heavy” crude oil, are closer to being ready to refine tar sands than most others.

The Western States Petroleum Association, representing the oil companies, has been fighting regulation every step of the way. Recently they’ve sent mailers opposing regulation to residents in the districts of selected BAAQMD board members. It is reported that they are hoping to get a California legislator to introduce a bill banning local caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

– Article courtesy of the Sunflower Alliance

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On June 27th, Oakland could close the door on coal

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

Youth leaders from West Oakland at a July, 2015 rally against coal exports.

It’s been nearly 15 months since we first learned about a backroom deal to turn Oakland into the West Coast’s biggest coal exporter. Now, the nightmare could finally be coming to an end. On Monday, June 27th, the Oakland City Council will hold a special hearing to unveil an ordinance designed to block coal and petroleum coke (petcoke) exports through Oakland. We need to turn out in force to show the council that if they stand up to the special interests pushing this dirty deal, we will have their backs.

Please join us on June 27th and help hold the council members to their promise to protect us all from coal exports. Here are the details:

WHAT: Oakland City Council hearing of an ordinance addressing coal exports
WHEN: Monday, June 27th, 4:30 pm (hearing begins at 5 pm)
WHERE: City Council Chambers, 3rd floor of City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
RSVP Here!


We haven’t seen the language of the ordinance yet, but we have reason to hope that it will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality,1 would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia,2 emphysema and heart disease.3

Please join us on the 27th and help ensure that Oakland’s elected officials prioritize public health and safety above the profits of Utah’s coal industry and private developers.

If we can stop this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet. If we can stop this proposal to export 10 million tons of coal to overseas markets each year, it will be the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.4

June 27th could be the day we close the door on coal for good — but we can’t underestimate the persuasive power of the special interests who stand to benefit financially from the coal-export deal. They’ll be sure to turn out in force, so we need you to show up, too. Please RSVP today to let us know we can count on you on the 27th.

 

[1] Rubenstein, Grace. “Air Pollution Controversy Swirls Around Oakland Army Base Development | News Fix | KQED News.” KQED News. May 6, 2014. http://ww2.kqed.org/news/air-pollution-dispute-west-oakland-army-base.

[2] Brook, Robert, et al, “Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease. An Update to the Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” May 9, 2010. Accessed February 10, 2016. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/05/10/CIR.b013e3181dbece1.

[3] Landen, Deborah D., James T. Wassell, Linda Mcwilliams, and Ami Patel, et al. “Coal Dust Exposure and Mortality from Ischemic Heart Disease among a Cohort of U.S. Coal Miners.” Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 54, no. 10 (2011): 727-33



[4] Technical Memorandum Air Quality, Climate Change, And Environmental Justice Issues From Oakland Trade And Global Logistics Center. Sustainable Systems Research, LLC, 2015.

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Alameda County fracking ban moves forward — Come to 6/1 campaign meeting to strategize next steps

What a whirlwind Monday’s hearing was! In case you missed it, after years of immense pressure and delays from the oil industry, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the anti-fracking ordinance! The next step is a vote of the Transportation and Planning Committee (stay tuned for details). Then it will move on to a final vote of the full Board of Supervisors.

We are well on our way to banning fracking and protecting our groundwater, our children’s health, and the future of Alameda County. What’s next? Join us at a critical campaign meeting Wednesday, June 1st, to hammer out how we’re going to win!

The fracking ban as it stands also prohibits cyclic steam injection, acid fracturing, well stimulation, and nearly every other dirty and dangerous method of extreme oil extraction. But here’s the tricky part: the ordinance that the Planning Commission recommended includes one weakness, which is a loophole allowing some kinds of waterflooding, a water-intensive “cousin” of fracking.

Can we stand behind this ordinance as it moves to the Board of Supervisors? As Alameda County Against Fracking, we have to decide. And for that, we need you. Join us at a can’t-miss campaign meeting to discuss our future and what winning will look like:

WHAT: Alameda County Against Fracking: What’s next? Campaign meeting and supporter meet-up
WHERE: Food & Water Watch, 1814 Franklin St., 11th Floor, Oakland, CA (take BART to 19th St.)
WHEN: Wednesday, June 1st, 6-7:30 PM
RSVP: on Facebook, or email eteevan@fwwatch.org

We’ve come this far, thanks to your tireless work. Now it’s time to think hard about the future of Alameda County.

Ella Teevan, Food & Water Watch

Zeke rides again! Fourth annual climate ride for 15-year-old from Berkeley

Zeke and his bike, from his Instagram page, @zekegerwein

Zeke and his bike, from his Instagram page, @zekegerwein

Now 15 years old, Zeke Gerwin will ride again this summer to raise awareness of climate change and raise money for the Bay Chapter’s work to create a just transition to a 100-percent-renewable-energy economy and stop dangerous fossil fuels from coming through the Bay Area.

This is the fourth year in a row that Zeke will be spending his summer  break pedaling for climate justice. Last year he raised $4,939 from fans and supporters who share his concerns about the climate and want to encourage Zeke’s dedication. Here are a few words from Zeke about this year’s ride:

“This summer I’ve chosen to ride my bicycle along the dirt roads and trails that run 4,000 miles along the length of the Rocky Mountains through three countries (Canada, the U.S., and Mexico).

While I am super excited about this ride because it will be an amazing adventure, it does not seem like it will do all that much to stop climate change. It might not. It might be useless (come to think of it, this might not actually be the smartest thing to put in a letter imploring people to give money to the Sierra Club). But I really, really hope it will do at least something, act as a tiny levee to stop the flood of carbon dioxide.

I want to talk to the people who live along the Great Divide; the First Nations people of Alberta whose homes are destroyed by the Tar Sands; the ranchers in Montana who have watched coal mining ruin whole mountains; the Coloradans who have to admire the view of miles of pine forest scoured by the pine beetle (which is now surviving through the winter due to global warming); farmers in Estado de Chihuahua who have observed the Chihuahuan Desert march forward, once lush mountainsides ravaged by drought.

I want to talk to people who subscribe to the views of the Koch Brothers and Cruz and Trump and Kasich and Clinton. It will be hard, and I may end up avoiding it, but I want to convince them that this is happening, to show them the evidence.

The Sierra Club has defeated over half of the coal plants in the United States, worked with many other environmental groups to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and is now battling on the front lines to stop coal exports, right here in the Bay Area.

And in case you were wondering, since this is a self-organized ride funded by my oh-so-generous parents, every cent of your donation goes to the Sierra Club.”

Show your support

Zeke dipping his tire in the Pacific after last summer’s 4,000-plus-mile ride across the continental U.S.

Zeke dipping his tire in the Pacific after last summer’s 4,000-plus-mile ride across the continental U.S.

If you believe in Zeke’s mission, please give today! You can make a donation online, or make out a check payable to “SF Bay Chapter, Sierra  Club” and send it to:

2530 San Pablo Avenue, Suite I
Berkeley CA 94702

Put  “Zeke’s Ride” in the memo line so that your contribution counts toward Zeke’s goals.

Want to ride with Zeke?

Zeke is looking for a biking buddy for the last leg of his trip from August 15th in Los Angeles to August 24th in Mexico. If you are a seasoned cyclist interested in joining the trip, send an email to zekesride@sfbaysc.org for more information.

Follow Zeke’s ride online

Can’t get enough Zeke? Follow him on Instagram @zekegerwein and check out his blog. Happy trails, Zeke, and thanks!

Oakland City Council moves forward with process to ban coal exports — Critical hearing on June 27

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Oakland residents have been protesting the coal-export proposal for over a year. Here, Katy Polony of No Coal in Oakland carries the message to Oakland City Hall last July. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Early in May, the Oakland City Council took an important step toward banning coal exports from the redeveloped Oakland Army Base. The Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with consulting firm ESA to prepare a report on the health and safety impacts of coal exports. Signing a contract now means that it is still possible to get a final decision on this matter before the Council’s upcoming summer recess.

Now that the City has finalized this contract, the consultant can begin the process of evaluating the thousands of pages of evidence pointing to the significant health and safety impacts of coal exports, submitted by experts and advocates including the Sierra Club. From increased asthma rates to decreased emergency vehicle access, the risks of exporting coal through Oakland are grave. We expect ESA’s findings to concur.

The City Council was originally scheduled to approve a contract with ESA on February 16th that would have pushed the timeline well into the fall and cost the city nearly $250,000. Prior to the February council meeting, Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement urging the council to postpone contracting with ESA to evaluate more options.

The city ultimately decided to stay with ESA, while scaling down its scope of work. In a recent statement, the mayor said, “The revised contract with ESA is more financially responsible and appropriately limits their role to validating evidence and assisting the City in its job to determine whether there is ‘substantial evidence’ to find ‘substantial endangerment’ of health and safety. The revised scope clarifies that this determination belongs to the City and not a contractor.”

Hearing set for June 27

The consultant, ESA, has been given a mid-June deadline to evaluate evidence so that an initial consideration by the Council of any health and safety regulations can be heard prior to July. Acting on a recommendation from council member Rebecca Kaplan, the full council voted unanimously to take up the issue on June 27th at a special City Council meeting.

Setting June 27th for a hearing of findings is a step in the right direction to getting the city to enact a ban on coal exports, as any action the city takes to enact such a ban will require two readings of an ordinance. A first reading in June gives the council enough time to have a second reading and final vote in July, before council goes on break for summer recess.

Blocking additional fossil fuels

On May 9th, the City Council held a special public hearing to receive information, testimony, and evidence regarding the public health and  safety impacts of transportation, transloading, handling, and export of fuel oil, gasoline, and crude oil in and through the City of Oakland. Although there are no current plans to ship these products through Oakland, both fuel oil and gasoline were listed among the potential commodities that could be shipped through the terminal at the army base redevelopment.

In 2014, the city passed a resolution opposing the transportation of hazardous fossil fuel materials, including crude oil, coal, and petroleum coke, through the City Of Oakland. As a follow-up to that resolution, ESA will consider the health and safety impacts of these additional fossil fuels in their report on coal.

If all goes as planned, the city will be able to introduce and pass an ordinance banning all fossils fuel exports, though the council has made it clear that coal is the top priority. We will be watching to make sure the council acts on their resolution to ban these dirty and dangerous products before they go on summer break. After more than a year of waiting, the people of Oakland deserve to know where their council members stand on this important issue before casting their votes in November.

To get involved in this campaign, contact Brittany King at (510)848-0800 or brittany.king@sierraclub.org.

– Brittany King

A cap on refinery emissions can keep tar sands and fracked oil out of the Bay Area

At a recent community forum in Richmond, Sierra Club organizer Ratha Lai explained why we need refinery emission caps to protect public health and the climate.

At a recent community forum in Richmond, Sierra Club organizer Ratha Lai explained why we need refinery emission caps to protect public health and the climate.

Back in 2012, the Bay Area’s air regulators determined that changes in the types of crude oil being brought in by local refineries would lead to an increase in emissions. Since the Air District’s own research had found that levels of toxic air pollution were already “unacceptably harmful to public health,” they resolved to pass a regulation preventing increases in refinery-wide emissions. Four years later, we’ve seen a lot of delays and excuses, but still no rule to keep emission levels from rising.

What the Air District foresaw back in 2012 has now come to pass. From 2012 to 2015, Bay Area refineries have requested permits for at least ten infrastructure projects that would allow them to bring in and refine dirtier and more dangerous grades of crude oil like Canadian tar sands and fracked Bakken shale oil. And to our dismay, the Air District has proceeded to rubber-stamp these refinery proposals with little or no public input.

A rule capping refinery emissions including particulate matter and greenhouse gases would effectively keep out these dirtier and more dangerous oils. It would protect Bay Area families from pollutants that cause asthma, cancer, and heart disease, and protect the global climate from the most carbon-intensive types of crude oil.

Unfortunately, the Air District staff has again and again delayed the introduction of a rule capping refinery emissions (also known as Rule 12-16). Any further delays could push introduction of this rule into 2017, when a turnover in board members could make adoption of a strong rule much more difficult.

We’re asking the Air District board to do three things:

  1. Direct the Air District staff to prepare a rule adoption package for Rule 12-16 that will allow the board to consider adopting refinery emission caps no later than August 20, 2016.
  2. Ensure that Rule 12-16 includes specific, enforceable, numeric emission limits on each refiner’s facility-wide emissions, based on actual current emissions.
  3. Hold the adoption hearing in a Bay Area refinery community on a weekday evening so that the communities most impacted by refinery emissions are able to attend.

WhatYouCanDo

If you’ve had enough polluted air for one lifetime, tell the Air District board. You can send a message online here.

To get involved in this campaign, contact organizer Ratha Lai at (510)848-0800 or ratha.lai@sierraclub.org.

Sierra Club and allies help shape a clean-energy program for the East Bay

The Sierra Club’s allies at the East Bay Clean Power Alliance carry signs at the May 5th meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reading, “Community Choice should represent the diversity of the East Bay!” Photo courtesy of the Local Clean Energy Alliance.

The Sierra Club’s allies at the East Bay Clean Power Alliance carry signs at the May 5th meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reading, “Community Choice should represent the diversity of the East Bay!” Photo courtesy of the Local Clean Energy Alliance.

Planning is underway for a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) clean-energy program for Alameda County. The East Bay Clean Power Alliance, of which the Bay Chapter is a member, has been closely following this process to ensure that Alameda County’s program emphasizes community participation, development of local renewable resources, and the creation of local clean-energy jobs.

On May 4th, the Steering Committee for the development of Alameda County’s CCA met to discuss two meaty items: draft results of the CCA feasibility study, and a draft Joint Powers Authority (JPA) agreement.

CCA Feasibility Study

The County’s technical consultants, MRW & Associates, presented the overall electricity load of the County — assuming all eligible cities are participating — and presented three scenarios the program’s energy portfolio could move forward on.

  1. Minimum Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) compliance: 33% to 50% qualifying renewables;
  2. More aggressive: Initially 50% RPS with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and
  3. Very low GHG emissions: 50% to 80% by year five.

The analysis then projected the program’s rate and how competitive it was in comparison to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). For Scenarios 1 and 2, the CCA’s rates were, on average, 5% less than PG&E’s; but, for Scenario 3, the rates were closer to PG&E’s rates. The analysis then provided different energy portfolios for the above scenarios with different levels of non-renewable, hydro, and renewable sources.

For a comprehensive view, the study then provided a rate projection of all three scenarios in comparison to PG&E, depending on real-life possible situations that may occur over the years, such as high natural-gas prices, a high Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee (or PCIA, and also known as “exit fees,” levied on customers who leave PG&E for a CCA), and the relicensing of the nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon.

Outside of the program’s energy portfolio, the study also presented the macroeconomic implications of each scenario (spurring local economic development and jobs), the administration and development of energy-efficiency programs, and the capacity for building local renewable resources; the study estimated that up to 10% of the program’s renewable supply could come from local resources by 2030.

JPA Agreement

The Joint Power Authority agreement is the legal document that will officially form the agency that will run Alameda County’s CCA program. At the May 4th meeting there was a general overview by County counsel of the draft JPA agreement, with much of the discussion focusing on the voting procedures of the JPA board. In sum, all matters, except as expressly required, need a simple majority of all Board members. However, two or more Board members may request a “voting shares” vote, which is a weighted vote that is calculated through a formula of a city’s annual electricity usage.

There was also major support for spelling out the community goals in the JPA agreement. As the program’s founding document, it is critical that desired values, goals, and priorities are enshrined in it, including: community representation, aggressive greenhouse gas reductions, local jobs and renewables development, and more.

The Alameda County Steering Committee meets every first Wednesday of the month in the Castro Valley Library. County staff is expected to return with the results of the feasibility study and JPA agreement in June to show any feedback that was integrated in the drafts and continue the discussion to finalize the documents.

You can view a presentation of the CCA status update online here, and the draft JPA online here.

– Luis Amezcua

Bay Area cities can lead the way to 100% clean energy

Activists at the 2015 Paris Climate conference made a full-body appeal for 100 percent renewable power. Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q.

Activists at the 2015 Paris Climate conference made a full-body appeal for 100 percent renewable power. Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q.

In his blog post “America’s Ready for 100,” the Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune wrote: “Time, tides, and climate disruption wait for no one. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced that global temperatures last year reached their highest level in 136 years of record-keeping. There’s only one rational response to news like that: cut climate pollution as fast as we possibly can. That means not only pushing back against fossil fuel projects but also expanding and accelerating our development of renewable energy. As Buckminster Fuller put it, we need to ‘build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’”

That’s where the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign comes in. We know it’s possible for the United States to power itself with a new model of 100 percent clean energy. Solar prices have fallen 80 percent in recent years. Wind prices have fallen 60 percent. In several regions of the country, clean energy is already cheaper than coal and gas and nuclear power. But the necessary transition to clean fuels won’t happen fast enough unless we set and meet some ambitious goals. Right now, the most effective way to do that is for cities, businesses, and local communities to commit to renewable power.

The “Ready for 100” campaign kicked off early in 2016 with a surprise action during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., and a challenge to get 100 U.S. cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Already, 15 U.S. cities have declared they will go all-in on clean energy. Three of them, Burlington, Vermont, Greensburg, Kansas, and Aspen, Colorado, have already achieved that goal.

San Francisco was one of the first cities to commit to going 100 percent renewable, with a target date of 2020. CleanPowerSF — the local “Community Choice” clean-energy program that launched in May to provide an alternative to PG&E’s dirtier, pricier power — is a big part of how the city plans to reach that goal. Programs to increase energy efficiency and ramp up local renewable-power generation will also be key.

In addition to San Francisco, there are several other Bay Area cities that are ready to step up to meet the “Ready for 100” challenge. This year, the Bay Chapter and our local partners will be focused on getting Richmond and Oakland to take the pledge to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Both cities have large environmental justice communities that are impacted by the fossil fuel industry (just look at emissions from Richmond’s Chevron refinery and the proposal to export coal through Oakland). Both cities also have Bay shorelines threatened by sea-level rise.

For Richmond and Oakland, as for San Francisco, being part of a Community Choice local clean-energy program will be an important part of getting to 100. Richmond already gets its power from Marin Clean Energy, which offers customers the option of 52 percent (the base “Light Green” option) or 100 percent (“Dark Green”) clean energy. As the cost of clean energy continues its downward trajectory and more renewable resources are developed locally, the percentage of clean energy in MCE’s “Light Green” option will rise, and more customers will migrate to the Dark Green option. Oakland, meanwhile, is likely to join the Alameda County Community Choice energy program now in development and projected to launch in early 2017.

The transition to a clean-energy economy will help Bay Area communities now, not just down the line. A recent economic study estimated that a transition to clean energy will add 1 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030 and increase household disposable income by $350-$400 in 2030 and by as much as $650 in 2050. San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF program, for example, is projected to create 8,100 construction jobs by building $2.4 billion worth of proposed solar, wind and geothermal projects.

As Richmond works to develop a Climate Action Plan and Oakland re-opens its own for updates, now is the time for these Bay cities to show their climate leadership and commit to 100 percent clean energy. Making this commitment will help create a safer, healthier world for future generations, as well as supporting our local economies.

We need your support to convince Bay Area cities to take the “Ready for 100” challenge. The first thing you can do is send a message to your mayor that you’re ready for 100 percent clean and renewable energy. Take that action today!

To get involved in the “Ready for 100” campaigns in Oakland and Richmond, email conservation organizer Nathan Duran at nathan.duran@sierraclub.org.

SF’s long-awaited renewable-energy program launches with strong enrollment, low rates

Energy from the Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area — located in the rolling green hills of southern Solano County, deep in the Delta — will supply CleanPowerSF with a portion of its energy supply. Photo courtesy Greg McQuaig via Flickr Creative Commons, Flickr.com/photos/gmcquaig.

Energy from the Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area — located in the rolling green hills of southern Solano County, deep in the Delta — will supply CleanPowerSF with a portion of its energy supply. Photo courtesy Greg McQuaig via Flickr Creative Commons, Flickr.com/photos/gmcquaig.

On May 1st, following years of advocacy and planning, CleanPowerSF officially launched as the default energy provider for San Francisco. This is a major milestone in the ongoing campaign to power San Francisco with 100 percent clean and renewable energy — and it is only possible because of the thousands of San Francisco residents who wrote letters, made calls, and showed up at events to support CleanPowerSF over the past decade. Thank you to everyone who took action to make CleanPowerSF a reality. Your hard work has contributed to a big step forward on the path to a 100 percent clean-energy future!

Enroll by August 1st

San Francisco residents and businesses will be enrolled in CleanPowerSF in phases, neighborhood by neighborhood, with businesses in parts of Districts 5 and 8 up next — but you don’t have to wait! Pre-enroll at www.cleanpowersf.org before August 1st and you’ll be part of the next wave of CleanPowerSF customers this November.

City seeing strong enrollment

The rollout of CleanPowerSF is going even better than expected. When Marin Clean Energy launched in 2012, around 20 percent of potential customers opted to stay with PG&E. So far in San Francisco, less than 1 percent of customers have opted out of CleanPowerSF. The rollout of CleanPowerSF to all San Francisco customers should take about five years, so don’t wait until your neighborhood is automatically phased in — enroll yourself today at www.cleanpowersf.org.

Go 100% clean with SuperGreen

You can sign up for the default Green program (cleaner and cheaper than what you were getting under PG&E), or better yet, you can opt up to SuperGreen, the 100 percent clean energy choice. For the average residential customer, SuperGreen will cost just $6 more a month: a low price to pay to slash your carbon footprint. Either way, sign up today at www.cleanpowersf.org!