In their latest dirty scam, oil companies think they're above the (climate) law

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Big oil hides behind good intentions, but don’t be fooled 

There’s a new movement underway to deceive California voters, keep us dependent on costly oil for decades to come, pollute our environment, and make us sick. 

Who could be behind such trickery? The answer: oil companies. We wish we could be surprised.

Hiding behind a fake concern for drivers and low-income families, oil companies have been waging a massive campaign to protect their profits and curtail California’s landmark climate law, AB 32. Even worse, some legislators are buying the act and have turned the oil company’s greedy movement into a proposed bill. 

AB 69: A hidden agenda

So why is this effort being launched now? Last month, California committed to investing billions of dollars from its cap-and-trade climate program in projects and programs that will create jobs, save Californians money, reduce carbon emissions, and improve air quality.

Starting on January 1, 2015, the oil industry will come under the cap and therefore will need pollution permits for each ton of carbon they emit. This is not a radical step: other polluting sectors such as utilities and large industrial facilities have been purchasing permits since the cap-and-trade program began nearly two years ago. And a poll released last night showed that 75% of Californians support transportation fuels in cap-and-trade. 

In a desperate move to protect their profits, oil companies are whipping up a frenzy of confusion with misleading information and threats of a “hidden gas tax” (which doesn’t actually exist). Their deception recently spawned a new bill in the California legislature: AB 69.

AB 69 would exempt oil companies from having to purchase carbon permits. This would help their bottom line in the short term. It would also dramatically reduce funding that is badly needed to expand transit systems, increase safe biking and walking, and create affordable and healthy communities. Without these investments, we will not be able to wean ourselves from oil, which is to the benefit of oil companies’ profits in the long-term.  

Californians pay less for electricity than many states around the country, thanks to our big investments in efficiency. Cap-and-trade can help us further reduce our overall expenses for transportation by reducing vehicle use and dependence.  

New oil-funded groups are popping up weekly claiming to represent the best interests of low-income and middle- class Californians. The reality is that communities throughout our state are already suffering from climate change and health impacts that are caused by big oil. 

AB 69 claims to represent the best interests of low-income Californians, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

The real cost of oil isn’t at the pump, it’s in our polluted air

In 2013 the Cal EPA released a report showing what is readily apparent to most of us: climate change is here and it’s impacting us in ways that cost us a lot in terms of our health, our environment, and our economy. Increasing temperatures are causing extreme weather patterns, intense wildfires, and the most severe drought in California’s history. Climate change is also making air pollution, which already contributes to 3,800 premature deaths each year, worse. 

On top of all the negative health impacts of climate change, there is a real financial cost. Air pollution alone conservatively costs our state at least $28 billion annually. With climate change these numbers will only worsen. 

What’s more, these costs are borne disproportionately by people of color and low-income communities. Without swift action, all Californians – but especially vulnerable communities already suffering from pollution, poverty, and lack of opportunity - will suffer. 

Low-income communities don’t need AB 69; they need affordable and clean transportation choices

By 2020, the annual proceeds from cap-and-trade could bring in as much as $5 billion annually to be used for projects and programs that reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, improve public health, and numerous other benefits. 

TransForm, with our partners in the Sustainable Communities for All Coalition, led the charge to ensure that a large proportion of the cap-and-trade climate fund will be invested in creating walkable neighborhoods with robust public transit, affordable homes, and parks and open space. 

At least 25% of cap-and-trade proceeds must be invested in our most disadvantaged communities throughout the state. This means that residents in low-income and heavily polluted communities will see investments that will reduce pollution, spur the economy, and provide access to transportation, jobs, and healthier lives.

These investments will not only improve health and quality of life but they have been proven to save people money. Our 2009 Windfall for All report showed that households in neighborhoods with good transit access in the four largest metro areas spent an average of $3,800 less and reduced carbon emissions by 34% every year. If all neighborhoods had access to the best public transportation, residents could spend $31.2 billion less each year on transportation,  and use those savings  to invest in their own future.

With more money in the cap-and-trade climate fund, the potential to enhance economic prosperity, achieve our climate goals, and protect our climate only increases – but only if the oil industry doesn’t succeed in passing AB 69. 

Email your legislator to stop AB 69 and keep California on track leading the charge to protect our climate and invest in a strong, sustainable economy.

Join us in telling our leaders in Sacramento NO on AB 69, and YES on a healthier and more prosperous future. 

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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit