It turns out that California Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzales, who recently posted “F*ck Elon Musk” on Twitter, has a rather interesting background when it comes to fossil fuels. Gonzales’ recent Twitter tirades aside, her vote on AB 345—a legislation calling for a 2500-foot setback between residences and oil operations—hints at a rather peculiar preference for the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
As noted in a 2019 expose by The Real News, almost 5.5 million Californians live within a mile of an oil well. Los Angeles County alone has over 5,000 in operation as of 2015, and over 80% of them are located within 2500 feet of a school, home, or hospital. Some oil wells are built closer to residences. Nalleli Cobo, one of the many voices supporting AB 345, lived in a house that’s only 30 feet from an oil production facility.
AB 345 was proposed by Al Muratsuchi (D-Los Angeles), who argued that the 2500-foot safety and buffer zone would benefit members of the community that frequent sensitive areas. These areas include daycare centers, hospitals, and residential homes.
“AB 345 will mandate a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and sensitive land uses, which include schools, daycare centers, residential homes, and hospitals, thereby creating a safe distance between drilling operations and vulnerable populations in order to avoid serious public health and safety risks and impacts. Oil and gas extraction produces air toxics, including volatile organic compounds like benzene and formaldehyde, fine and ultra-fine particulate matter, and hydrogen sulfide. Other risks include water contamination, toxic chemicals spills, and explosions,” he said.
AB 345 was a bill designed to make it illegal to operate an oil well near sensitive areas like schools & day care centers. A bill to stop big oil from poisoning children like Nalleli Cobo.— Third Row Tesla Podcast (@thirdrowtesla) May 11, 2020
Lorena Gonzalelz shelved the bill.
Go tell big oil to go fuck themsleves. Not @elonmusk. https://t.co/7hMNWpd3ss pic.twitter.com/wyT1PNqHLu
The legislation was actually popular, gaining support from organizations such as the Greenpeace, Californians Against Fracking, Consumer Watchdog, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment and Sunrise Movement Bay Area, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. It’s very difficult to argue against the benefits of a bill that would otherwise ensure that people are less harmed by oil facilities, after all.
Lorena Gonzales was able to argue against the bill nonetheless. After AB 345 passed the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources on April 22, the bill was pulled from the docket for the 2019 session a few weeks later by Gonzales. The Assemblywoman placed the legislation as a two-year bill, which meant that it could be reconsidered again in January 2020.
“This year because there are so many bills, many that were extremely good bills or had extremely good ideas, but necessitated a number of amendments or late amendments in order to make them workable or affordable or that there were just some open issues that didn’t allow us to move it forward, we have made those into two year bills,” Gonzalez said at the May 16 hearing.
State campaign finance data shows that Gonzales has received campaign money over the course of her career from fossil fuel-related companies and organizations. These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the CA Independent Petroleum Association, among others. Interestingly enough, ExxonMobil was among the dissenting voices that lobbied against AB 345.
So far, Gonzales’ statements against Elon Musk continue to result in debates across social media. Despite growing support for the Fremont factory’s reopening from the Bay Area Council, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and the mayors of Fremont and Palo Alto, Gonzales has opted to double down on her stance against Tesla, sharing a negatively-received editorial from the Sacramento Bee and arguing openly against the electric car maker’s advocates.
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