Beating Big Oil: Big win for environmental justice in California

by Muriel MacDonald, Dayenu Deputy Director of Organizing

Friends, we have something major to celebrate: California will no longer permit oil drilling within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, prisons, hospitals, and other sensitive sites.

Thank you to everyone who worked with us – especially our partner on this campaign, the RAC-CA – to make sure Jewish communities organized for this important environmental justice issue. Together with folks across the state, we built a groundswell of support that forced the fossil fuel industry to back down.

Despite spending nearly $61 million to stop California from establishing health and safety buffer zones, Big Oil recently forfeited and withdrew its shameful ballot measure. This means these long-fought community protections will go into effect immediately.

This is a win for everyone, but especially for the frontline communities that experience the most severe health impacts from toxic infrastructure in their backyards. For over a decade, frontline activists have been leading the fight to establish buffer zones and protect their households and neighbors.

These communities – predominantly Black, brown, indigenous, monolingual Spanish-speaking, and poor and working class – face modern-day redlining and environmental racism that permits fossil fuel corporations to cause terrible harm (asthma, cancer, birth defects, and more) that would never be tolerated in wealthy, white neighborhoods. 

We are so grateful for the leadership of frontline communities, and will continue to organize with them as they lead the way to a more just, safe, and sustainable future.

At the Jewish climate gathering in Los Angeles in May, Dayenu and the RAC-CA mobilized our communities to take action in the campaign to keep the buffer zone law. Today, we celebrate! (Photo: Hannah Benet)


In California, climate will still be on November’s ballot! A new ballot measure will ask voters whether to approve a $10 billion bond that could fill climate equity funding gaps while also offering much needed support for clean energy projects and resilience efforts. Stay tuned for how you can get involved.

Finally, some disappointing news. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, SB252 – which would have required CalPERS and CalSTRS to move billions of dollars out of fossil fuels – was pulled from consideration after opponents gutted the bill. This is disappointing for everyone who worked for passage the past two years, including many Dayenu Circle leaders. But take heart – Senator Gonzalez has already committed to re-introduce her bill next year, and we’re ready to join with a broad coalition (teachers, climate activists, retirees, and more) to keep pushing for this change.

Today, we celebrate, breathe deeply, and continue to organize!


Muriel MacDonald, Dayenu's Deputy Director of Organizing, is an organizer, trainer, and communicator based in San Francisco, CA. As a volunteer with Sunrise Movement, Muriel trained hundreds across the country, coordinated direct actions, and served on the executive leadership team of Sunrise Bay Area. When not working, Muriel can be found making music on Shabbat, riding bikes, and plotting direct actions.

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