Boldness and Unity in 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm about to take two weeks off. Whenever I take time off, I like to dig into a few books I've wanted to read.

I was looking at the list of gotta-reads this week and realized there's a common thread running through them: outsmarting opponents and winning against big odds.

We have just a little more than six weeks before the New Year begins. The year 2014 promises some interesting opportunities to strengthen California's environmental outlook. Grabbing those opportunities, though, will require some keen strategies for outsmarting opponents. Hence the reading list.

We're at a critical intersection in California's environmental and economic history and nearly everyone who tracks climate change recognizes that. We have some choices to make about our relationship to petroleum in California--how we extract it, how we use it, and whether we want it to dictate our economic well-being.

We can continue to allow the oil companies to drive the state down a path that will overwhelm us with greenhouse gas emissions and dangerous workplace hazards. Or we can unite and fight smarter for a state where renewable energy, zero-emission vehicles, and clean air and clean water dominate. Will it be business as usual or a vigorous, sustainable economy no longer dependent on dirty fuels? 

In the last two months since the legislature recessed, environmental activists around the state--volunteers and staff--have engaged in focused planning about how to more assertively move the state away from the dirty path. As a result, a couple of exciting campaigns are surfacing.

One is focused on accelerating the pace at which electric vehicles become part of California's transportation system. Called Charge Ahead California, the campaign is designed to make sure funding and policies are in place to get at least a million electric vehicles on the road in California over the next decade to reduce air pollution from conventional gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

The million vehicles will include big trucks that haul freight and cars that carry people. And a campaign goal is to make sure the funding and policies are set to make sure income level doesn't block access to electric vehicles and their pollution-reducing benefits.

Our colleagues at Communities for a Better Environment, Environment California, and NRDC initiated the campaign, which now includes a growing number and range of supporters, including Sierra Club California.

Another campaign for 2014 has to do with fracking and acid stimulation, the dangerous techniques for tapping into hard-to-reach oil deposits.  Each week, with more information emerging about fracking's devastating impacts on the environment and public health in other states, it is becoming crystal clear that California needs a fracking moratorium. Some California cities are already telling oil companies their fracking is unwelcome. Even the Los Angeles City Council is considering a moratorium.

Earlier this year, environmental groups that work on state legislation were divided about the best way to address fracking. Those divisions have been repaired and a clear path forward is emerging. Stay tuned for more about that path later.

These aren't the only issues environmental advocates will be working on in 2014, but they give you a taste of what’s ahead.

So now, it's time to hit the books and prepare to win. The year 2014 promises to be a bold one for environmental policy.


Kathryn Phillips               

Kathryn Phillips, Director                               

Sierra Club California is the Sacramento-based legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the 13 California chapters of the Sierra Club.

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