On January 25, 2022, the Antioch City Council approved a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling, production, and exploratory operations within city limits, extending its track record of enlightened protection of city residents. Antioch is one of the most diverse cities within the Bay Area, with a 2020 population that was 33.2% Latinx,  27.8% White non-Latinx, 2l.5% Black, 11.7% Asian, and 5.8% mixed race or other. Preventing fossil fuel activities within Antioch is a victory for environmental justice, as well as ensuring public health and maintaining property values.

Antioch is considering another fossil-fuel related issue: whether to extend the permit allowing a pipeline that currently transports natural gas and other hydrocarbons on city streets to the Chevron refinery in Richmond. At issue is the risk to public health and the environment in case of a pipeline rupture. A motion of some council members at the September 28, 2021 meeting to approve the permit failed. Brentwood previously denied a permit extension to the portion of the pipeline going through that city. Your written comments and verbal testimony supporting permit denial are needed the next time it comes up for a vote. This may be as early as the next council meeting; we’ll let you as soon as we know.

A 50-year-old plugged oil well in unincorporated Antioch is being allowed to restart operations as an injection well without public review or an Environmental Impact Review (EIR). CalGEM, the California Geologic Energy Management agency, made this dangerous and contradictory decision on the basis that the well is part of a nearby active drilling site. The contradiction is that Dozier-Libbey High School, the Kaiser Antioch Medical Center, and pending senior housing all are within the 3,200-foot setback limit that CalGEM itself is proposing for new fossil fuel drilling sites. The danger is that the numerous plugged and abandoned wells all over east Contra Costa could be reactivated without public review or an EIR, based on this precedent. Sunflower Alliance is filing a lawsuit against CalGEM because of the widespread and dangerous consequences of this decision. Please go to Help Support Our Lawsuit Against CalGEM! to learn more and donate to defray legal costs.

 Opposition to proposed oil drilling in an unincorporated area a few 100 feet from Brentwood homes continues to grow. To recap this movement’s history, the county Board of Supervisors approved the permit application in 2020 without an EIR, causing residents and environmentalists to demand that a thorough impact study be carried out. The EIR is still pending public comment; we’ll let you know when the comment period opens.

The petition urging the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to ban new oil and gas drilling is gaining signatures. If you haven’t signed yet, please go to No New Oil and Gas Drilling in Contra Costa! – Action Network and add your name. Petition sponsors are half-way to their 5,000 signature goal for presenting the petition to the Board and need your help.

Newly published research identifies the adverse health impacts of low levels of particulates for older adults. The Health Effects Institute, an independent research institute jointly funded by the EPA, industry, and foundations, released the results of their study of the medical records of 68.5 million older Medicare recipients for the years 2000 to 2016 on January 26, 2022. The research found that long term exposure to even low levels of air pollution was correlated with excess mortality. The current national standard for PM 2.5, the tiny particulates in polluted air that are most damaging to health, is 12 micrograms per cubic meter; lowering the permitted level  to 10 micrograms per unit would have reduced deaths by more than 143,000 over the study period. The association of low-level pollution and increased mortality, primarily from cardiac disease, was particularly strong in rural areas with less access to health care and lower incomes. This study will inform the EPA’s review of the PM 2.5 maximum acceptable level that is due this spring and hopefully will result in a tightened standard. Most health experts believe there is no safe level of PM 2.5 pollution.