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Bill Day, Tallahassee, FL

Cities Can Save the Environment from Trump

Santa Barbara Has the Standing to Lead a Coalition


In the Time of Trump, thinking globally and acting locally has, by necessity, become thinking locally and acting globally regarding the administration’s attack on our environment. Our mayor and City Council, because of the 1969 oil spill, which ushered in the modern environmental movement, and our proximity to the Thomas Fire, now second largest in the state’s history, have the standing and credibility to take on the role of organizing a coalition of cities to oppose the president’s recent attacks: wanting to open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil drilling and revoke California’s authority to regulate automobile emissions to a higher-than-national standard.

If you put it in context, Donald Trump’s “let’s drill more offshore oil wells” plan and trying to force California, and the 13 states that have adopted our fuel efficiency standards, to abandon them is nothing more than a continuation of his anti-global climate change attack which began with removing us from the Paris Climate Accords. We don’t need offshore oil, and the health and environmental benefits from greater miles per gallon and fewer tail pipe emissions is obvious, and he knows it.

The oil and gas industry currently has a massive surplus of oil and gas leases and permits. Moreover, the most promising oil reserves are primarily on state and private lands, where fracking has unlocked resources that have enabled us to cut our dependence on foreign oil.

Trump’s policy would freeze California’s rules requiring automakers to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids and electric vehicles, and roll back a 2012 rule that required automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of about 54 mpg by 2025. This is so upside down it makes one’s head spin.

This is where the Santa Barbara City Council comes in. Our city has been “ground zero” for both the devastation of offshore oil blowouts and climate-induced raging fires and mudslides. And, our City Council’s Resolution opposing offshore oil and gas drilling was the first in the nation to respond to the president’s “drill the ocean” proposal. Unfortunately our small city’s resolution by itself gets lost in Twitter and Facebook storms. A coalition of cities with an advocacy plan, on the other hand, can organize the kind of grass-roots resistance to stop this insanity.

It’s obvious that the Republican-controlled Congress is not going to oppose these measures. And, while the State of California’s court fight regarding protecting our fuel standards is the right response, this is not going to be enough. Coalitions of municipal governments are not a new idea. They have been effective at influencing everything from cap-and trade to homelessness resources and water policy. What is always needed in this kind of community organizing is a leader. Our mayor and City Council have the standing to play that role. They should instruct staff to draft a resolution for other cities to sign on to along with a proposed advocacy plan for such a coalition.

If other cities need an incentive to sign on, all they have to do is observe the devastating Mendocino Complex fires that raged in Northern California, brought on by climate change, and be reminded of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. We are now living through the five hottest years on record, with each hotter than the last. Climate scientists attribute this record heat to fossil-fuel production and emissions causing global climate change. They also acknowledge that the resulting fires have been caused by a hotter, drier climate. Rather than more drilling in the ocean and a retreat from fuel-efficiency standards, we need more reduction in tail pipe emissions, alternative fuels, and an organized grass-roots opposition to Trump’s attack.

In this Time of Trump, it is no longer sufficient for local governments to simply pass city resolutions. They are needed in the national opposition movement. Santa Barbara should lead this movement.

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