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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

Governor Jerry Brown Awarded First-Ever “Poisonous Pumpjack”

Brown’s Last Chance Campaign recognizes Brown’s years of service to the fossil fuel industry, vows to expose his dirty fossil fuel track record at Global Climate Action Summit

July 10, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – Recognizing his decades of ceaseless efforts to aid and abet California’s destructive fossil fuel industry, Governor Jerry Brown was today awarded the “Poisonous Pumpjack Award” in a brief ceremony at Moscone Center.

Over the past seven years, Gov. Brown has issued permits for 20,000 new fossil fuel wells while raking in over $9 million in monetary contributions from energy-related special interests. True to his reputation for holding contradictory positions, Brown has managed to bow to the interests of the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously traveling the world to issue dire warnings about the threat of climate change.

The first-ever Poisonous Pumpjack Award was timed to recognize Brown’s two-faced approach to the climate issue; he received the award on the same day he received a “lifetime achievement” award from solar industry groups. Both awards ceremonies took place at Moscone Center, the future site of Brown’s upcoming Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in September. The awards ceremony is part of an escalating campaign to highlight Brown’s true track record on climate and health issues leading up to the summit.

“Governor Brown’s pusillanimous support of the fossil fuel industry is a tremendous disappointment and sends a dangerous message that the Governor prefers pumpjacks over the health and well being of our most vulnerable communities,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group. California families deserve to live in safe communities free from climate devastation and harmful fossil fuel production; and we deserve a Governor who is not afraid to stand up to the Big Oil lobby. The ‘Poisonous Pumpjack’ award represents well-earned recognition of Gov. Brown’s cowardice when it comes to protecting our climate, our people, and our government from corporate abuses.”

Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, offered her congratulations to Brown on receiving the first-ever Poisonous Pumpjack Award:

“As someone who recently completed cancer treatment this year, I feel no one is more deserving of this award than Governor Brown, who has made an inestimable contribution to cancer and climate change,” said Jaggar. “Brown’s steadfast refusal to challenge the oil and gas industry throughout his tenure as Governor is a profound testament to his determination to set aside clear evidence of harm to public health and the planet. Not only has Governor Brown given frontline communities the first shot at exposure to toxic chemicals, he has offered all Californians the chance to experience health harms from contaminated air and water, thanks to countless opportunities for exposure to toxic chemicals at every stage in the production process, from drilling and refining through waste disposal, storage and consumption.”

"The health of Central Valley families is the real victim of the oil industry and its power,” said Cesar Aguirre of the Central California Environmental Justice Network. “Because our local politics are controlled by the powerful oil industry, any hope of protections must come from higher up. However, despite popular thinking, Governor Jerry Brown has not been that savior for our front-line families. In fact, Brown's policies have further endangered our environment and our communities. The reality is, while he hides behind his status as an environmental champion, his policies reflect his unwillingness to protect people from known toxic exposures that his own scientists uncovered. This is why Governor Brown has earned this award of the Poisonous Pumpjack, and from the perspective of our communities who are contending with toxins all around us, it suits him well."

“As youth who are going to inherit the decisions of our political leaders, Governor Brown fittingly deserves this award for his lack of action against extreme energy extraction,” said Orion Camero of SustainUS. “The Governor’s willingness to cater to the fossil fuel industry makes him the ideal candidate for the Poisonous Pumpjack, given his hollow promises of a just transition to clean energy as people on the frontlines deal with immediate impacts of wastewater contamination, air pollution and health dangers. From the methane leak in Porter Ranch to the refineries in Richmond, enough is enough. California needs to take the global lead and shut down all fossil fuel projects so we can get to the real work of providing energy to the people without sacrificing communities.”

"As the Trump administration continues to flout common sense environmental protections, Governor Brown is trying to position himself as global leader on combating climate change," said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Mary Sweeters. "But no plans to protect communities from the intensifying effects of climate change can include fossil fuels. Until Governor Brown realizes that California's addiction to fossil fuels undermines the efficacy of renewable energy, he cannot be celebrated as a climate leader."

“As mothers, we teach our children to act with integrity, to be sure that what they do matches what they say,” said Linda Hutchins-Knowles of Mothers Out Front California. “We find ourselves befuddled at the mismatch between what Governor Brown says—that climate change is an existential threat—and what Governor Brown does—green lighting thousands of new fossil fuel projects, including offshore drilling, in California. As mothers, we insist that our elected officials prioritize the health and safety of children over the profits of fossil fuel corporations. It shocks the conscience that oil and gas drilling are allowed to take place literally next door to homes, schools, and daycares, poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink, and that agribusinesses are allowed to irrigate their produce with oil drilling wastewater, poisoning the food we set on our tables. As part of the Brown’s Last Chance Campaign, we mothers demand that Governor Brown implement common sense setback limits to protect our vulnerable frontline communities, and that he immediately freeze permits for new oil and gas drilling projects. Until he does, we suspect that he may be in line for more Poisonous Pumpjack awards.”

The Brown’s Last Chance campaign launched in April to highlight Brown’s hypocrisy on fossil fuels and demand that he act to freeze new fossil fuel production in California and make a plan to transition California off of fossil fuels. More than 800 climate, health, social justice, and consumer groups signed on to the campaign and pledged to hold Brown accountable at this climate summit in September. Today’s awards ceremony is part of an escalating series of actions leading up to the summit.

In June, more than 100 local elected officials signed a letter to Brown demanding that he take action to halt the health, safety, and climate harms of the fossil fuel industry. In addition – despite Brown’s calls to resist President Trump’s plans to expand oil drilling in California – a mapping study by Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker revealed that Gov. Brown has authorized four times as many offshore wells as President Trump is proposing.


Presente.org is the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group; advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture.