Tag Archives: Climate crisis

Editorial: In eco-minded California, there’s still no constitutional right to clean air and water

[Note from BenIndy Contributor Kathy Kerridge: Don’t we have a right to a safe and healthy environment?  It’s time to put it in our Constitution.]

Under a proposal in the California Legislature, voters could weigh in on an amendment to add rights to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment to the state constitution. | Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times.

LA Times, by the Times Editorial Board, April 24, 2024

California may be a leader in the fight against climate change, but the state is years, even decades, behind other states when it comes to granting environmental rights to its citizens.

While a handful of other state constitutions, including those of New York and Pennsylvania, declare the people’s rights to clean air, water and a healthy environment, California’s does not.

That could change as soon as November. Under a proposal moving through the Legislature, voters would decide whether to add one sentence to the state constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “The people shall have a right to clean air and water and a healthy environment.”

The proposed green amendment could be seen as a well-meaning but symbolic change in a state that, despite tough environmental rules, struggles to address deep environmental problems like air pollution, contaminated drinking water and the worsening impacts of climate change.

But there’s a reason that powerful business interests have come out in opposition. Enshrining environmental rights in California’s constitution would give citizens a new tool to hold the government accountable for failing to act in the interest of environmental health, protection and justice. That could, in turn, force the state to crack down on polluters.

It should be obvious that we need more tools to address the climate crisis. And in California, of all places, citizens should have the chance to weigh in on whether a healthy environment is a right on par with life, liberty, safety, happiness and privacy, which are all spelled out in the constitution. Lawmakers should advance this proposal to let the voters decide.

To be put on the ballot the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers in both the state Assembly and Senate. It must win the support of a simple majority of voters to be added to the constitution.

States like Montana, which declares “the right to a clean and healthful environment,” added this kind of language to their constitutions more than 50 years ago in response to the burgeoning environmental movement. After the advent of Earth Day, Pennsylvania in 1971 amended its constitution to add the people’s right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

In recent years, some of those rarely invoked amendments have seen new life as bases to challenge government decisions over oil and gas permitting and the cleanup of contaminated sites and other environmental hazards. There’s now a nationwide movement to get green amendments onto more state constitutions. In 2021 70% of New York voters passed an amendment adding the right to “clean air and water, and a healthful environment” to its state constitution’s Bill of Rights, language that is nearly identical to the California proposal.

But state Legislatures have also been a chokepoint for these proposals. In some states, such as New Jersey, green amendments with bipartisan support have languished for years because key lawmakers have prevented them from being being considered.

Business interests in California are lining up in opposition to putting the proposed green amendment on the ballot. Brady Van Engelen, a policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers during a legislative hearing earlier this month that it was a “job killer” that could spur lawsuits and be weaponized by “wealthy white NIMBYs” to block development.

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) who introduced the green amendment legislation, dismissed the Chamber’s opposition as “ridiculous.” He said that lawmakers opted for simple, direct language that is more limited than other states’ to make it clear the amendment is not intended as litigation bait, but rather to establish a clear obligation that the state make decisions in a way that upholds the environmental values it espouses. A green amendment would not establish any new right for individuals to sue businesses for environmental violations.

But just as in New York, Pennsylvania and Montana, a California green amendment could be used to hold state officials accountable for their decisions, from legislation and permitting to the enforcement of existing environmental laws.

Californians should have the chance to not only send a message about how much they value a healthy environment, but to assert that something as fundamental to life as clean air and clean water isn’t just an aspiration or an ideal, but a right.

Benicia’s future at stake – Small towns as canaries in the coal mine for climate change

Roger Straw, Benicia CA

[BenIndy contributor Roger Straw: As I watched this fascinating interview, I thought of my own little bit of paradise, my home, my small-town Benicia, California. Could it happen here, really? Entire towns have been destroyed by wildfire, and over 3 million US residents have migrated in recent years due to the risks and realities of extreme flooding. How many times have I had the conversation with friends and family about where we would move, if we had to leave Benicia, leave California? How many of us have already left for safer locations? Short of leaving here, is my home fire resistant? Is our city safe? How much would it cost for Benicia and PGE and you and me to avoid the fate of Lahaina, Hawaii, how much to bury all of our electrical lines below ground and clear defensible space around every home and business? How much to adequately prepare for sea level rise and storm-wrecked shores? Near the end of this interview, federal grants are mentioned. Are our city leaders planning carefully and reaching out for these grants?]

Before It’s Gone: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change in Small-Town America

Destroyed Communities & Climate Migrants: Climate Change Upends Small Towns

Amanpour and Company on Youtube, April 16, 2024

Hurricanes, storms, and wildfires are persuading Americans to abandon their homes as nature lashes out against human-made climate change. Over three million Americans have already moved due to risk of flooding, and climate experts say some 13 million coastal residents will be displaced by the end of this century. CBS News correspondent and author Jonathan Vigliotti has reported from the front lines of climate change. He explains to Hari Sreenivasan how American towns might become more resilient and why it’s crucial to listen to the science.

Originally aired on PBS on April 16, 2024

Johnathan Vigliotti, Before It’s Gone, Stories from the Front Lines of Change in Small-Town America

Available for order at Bookshop Benicia,  https://bookshopbenicia.indielite.org/book/9781668008171

Join Tomorrow at 7pm: ‘Tools for the Faithful in the ‘Just-Green’ Transition’ Zoom Presentation

[Note from BenIndy: There are many lenses through which we can consider and address our climate crisis; faith is an important one. The Heritage Presbyterian Church’s “Make the World a Better Place” program is hosting a Zoom presentation on Wednesday, March 20, at 7pm, to share tools faith communities can use in these discussions. That said, it’s clear these tools can serve not just the faithful, but also “people of conscience.” To get the Zoom link, you will have to RSVP by emailing betterworldbenicia@gmail.com.]

Make the World a Better Place presents

Climate Crisis: Tools for Faith Communities and People of Faith and Conscience in the “Just Green-Transition”

March 20, 2024, 7 pm on ZOOM

To RSVP and to get the Zoom link please email: betterworldbenicia@ gmail.com

Featuring: Gregory Stevens, Northern California Director, California Interfaith Power and Light (www.interfaithpower.org)


The climate has changed. Our planet is heating up. We need a new system. A system based on deep democracy, radical egalitarianism, participatory budgeting, and social justice. Faith communities across the country already embody these ways of being; so how do we make them global?

Now is the time to take action and this event will provide the tools and framework needed to make a “just green-transition” a concrete reality. A “just green transition” refers to the shift towards a more environmentally sustainable economy and society while ensuring that the process is fair and equitable for all stakeholders, especially those who may be disproportionately affected by the transition. This concept recognizes that transitioning to a green economy, which prioritizes renewable energy, resource efficiency, and sustainability, can have social and economic implications.

About Gregory Stevens: Gregory serves as the Northern California Director. As a former Baptist preacher, long time labor organizer, and interfaith community activist they bring a creative mix of skills to our team as we seek to strengthen multi-religious responses to climate change. Gregory grew up in Tampa/St. Petersburg Florida, where their love for crawling critters, furry felines, and old oak trees solidified into political and social activism for planetary healing. They have a BA in Religion and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida, a MDiv from Claremont School of Theology, and a MA in Anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. In their free time they enjoy overstuffed used bookstores, the smell and feel of giant Redwood Trees, watching documentaries about ancient cultures, and all things Unitarian Universalist.

California Interfaith Power & Light
685 14th Street, Oakland CA 94612
(510) 867-2031 | info@interfaithpower.org

To RSVP and to get the Zoom link please email: betterworldbenicia@ gmail.com


More about Make the World a Better Place

Monthly educational programs on Zoom focused on social justice topics that can make a better, more peaceful and just world. The good folks at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Benicia plan and present these programs for thoughtful and caring people. Viewpoints expressed in these presentations do not necessarily reflect any position or policy of Heritage Presbyterian Church and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Heritage Presbyterian Church/ The Presbytery of the Redwoods 1400 E. 2nd St., Benicia
(707) 745-6650 | betterworldbenicia@gmail.com
Pat Plant, Better World Organizer

“The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life. – Rabindranath Tagore

Big Oil (yes, including Valero) enters race to target Climate Dems like State Senate candidate Jackie Elward

[Note from BenIndy: Same old dog, same old tricks. The only things that seem to change over the years are the euphemistic PAC names used to attack Climate Dems. This PAC, funded by Chevron, Valero, and Marathon (among others), is called the “Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class” in short, but it’s the whole name that gives you the whole picture: “Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class…Including Energy Manufacturing and Technology Companies Who Produce Gas Oil Jobs and Pay Taxes.” So folks, don’t forget to check the fine print on all political mailers before elections. Top funders are often noted in the fine print, but it’s worth some Google sleuthing to see who else is paying for these glossy hit pieces. The nastier they are, the deeper you should look – to assess both truthfulness and your personal alignment with the statements for or against a candidate or measure.]


An oil pumpjack in Kern County, California. Climate News / Harika Maddala.

Politico, by Blanca Begert, Camille Von Keen, and Ariel Gans, with help from Jeremy B. White and Wes Venteicher, February 15, 2024 

BLUE OIL: Like crude from a derrick, oil money is gushing into legislative races as the industry looks to elect its favored Democrats.

The principal industry PAC — funded by Chevron, Valero and Marathon — has spent nearly $1.4 million to influence voters in a handful of races this week, according to the Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class’ campaign filings. The spending surge is concentrated on safe blue seats. It’s a familiar tactic: with Republicans sidelined in Sacramento, businesses often look to recruit sympathetic Democrats.

That dynamic is most evident in a Stockton-area state Senate race that’s absorbed the majority of the PAC’s spending so far. The battle to succeed outgoing Sen. Susan Eggman in SD-5 has become a proxy for the larger struggle between business-backed moderate Democrats and more liberal members supported by labor and environmentalists.

The oil PAC has spent $700,000 so far to promote Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua — one of the Legislature’s most conservative Democrats — and to suppress former Rep. Jerry McNerney, who came out of retirement to challenge Villapudua. Meanwhile, a pro-McNerney committee funded by unions, consumer attorneys and green groups has spent more than $400,000.

Beyond SD-5, the industry is spending to boost Adam Perez in the 50th Assembly District; Assemblymember Tim Grayson in the 9th Senate District; Jose Solache in the 62nd Assembly District; Ed Han in the 44th Assembly District; and Karen Mitchoff in the 15th Assembly District, while attacking Jackie Elward in the 3rd Senate District. All are open, blue seats. — JW