Groups Recommend Steps for Just Transition Roadmap

Letter outlines critical steps for just transition of refineries in California

SAN FRANCISCO – A group of community, business, faith, and environmental advocates sent a letter to Governor Newsom’s administration leaders today, providing suggestions for an inclusive public process and five key recommendations for studies concerning the transition away from fossil fuels mandated by Governor Newsom in a recent executive order.  

The letter notes that without a smart and transparent process, the decommissioning of oil refineries in California are likely to burden neighboring, fenceline communities, which are disproportionately communities of color. Policies are needed now to prevent employment, tax base, and environmental issues from damaging communities as refineries go offline.

The groups outlined the five following focal points to ensure a just transition for refinery workers and communities: (1) the need for direct wage and benefit supports, (2) the central role of local communities in just transition, (3) ways to address the need for contaminated site cleanup, (4) the need to closely scrutinize biofuel conversion projects, and (5) the need to secure financial support for a just transition from industry. 

The more than 75 groups and individuals signed onto the letter include the Sierra Club, Idle No More, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Following are quotes from groups signing the letter:

“We must plan for the inevitable transition from fossil to renewable fuels, and for that transition to be economically and environmentally just for workers and nearby communities,” said Eduardo Martinez, City Council member in Richmond, California, which recently passed a resolution to support the asks in the letter. “We must ensure that taxpayers aren’t left paying for the damage that industry caused.”

"Residents of refinery towns are already breathing toxic, unhealthy air while living with terrifying flaring and explosions,” said Shoshana Wechsler, a member of the Sunflower Alliance. “Now they face a whole slew of new problems if unprofitable refineries abruptly close up shop without any protections in place.  We need certainty that these refineries will pay for their decades of pollution so residents don’t have to.”

“Refineries have been generating profits in refinery towns for generations,” said Katherine Black of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community. “California needs to ensure that the communities that have borne the brunt of chemical and particulate pollution by refineries be made whole and are allowed to prosper in a post refinery world.  Anything short of this is a continuation of environmental injustice.”

“With California’s declining oil industry slipping into the rearview mirror, it’s critical that we focus on what’s next economically for our state,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney at NRDC, (Natural Resource Defense Council.) “The just transition reports ordered by the Governor offer a great chance to do that, but the public has to be involved front and center.”


NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC 

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