The clash that can emerge between two key Democratic constituencies — organized labor and environmental groups — was on clear display Tuesday.
That’s when a legislative committee investigating October’s oil spill near Huntington Beach held a hearing about decommissioning offshore oil production in California. One key issue: As the state transitions away from fossil fuels, what happens to oil and gas workers?
- Erin Lehane, legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council: “This talk about job retraining, it’s almost a classist sense that these … men and women will take whatever job is handed to them. Well, that’s just not true. They want to do the job they were trained to do, and they want to do the job that they’re proud to do. … This is their chosen profession. This is who they are and this is how they identify themselves. … That’s why we’re not interested collectively in the sense, of, you know, the quote-unquote ‘just transition.’”
That could pose challenges for Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic lawmakers, who are not only confronting a disappearing workforce but also pouring billions of dollars into programs to “create sustainable jobs in emerging and green and just transition kinds of sectors,” in the words of Dee Dee Myers, Newsom’s senior advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
- Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a Carson Democrat: “Do we save the tree or the person under the tree? … It’s just something I have to come to grips with based on where I represent. I represent people, and those people need to have jobs.”
- Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica: “We have to save the tree and the person under the tree. … You’re not saving a human if you don’t save the trees.”
It’s not that organized labor is opposed to green jobs: Lehane implored lawmakers to cut “red tape” and streamline projects relating to carbon capture, hydrogen fuels and offshore wind, noting that California is far from meeting its ambitious climate goals.
- Lehane: “We need to get going yesterday. … We need to get these new facilities online and we need to get our members working on these new facilities.”
A similar issue to watch: The powerful Building and Trades Council last week expressed strong opposition to a Democratic-led bill that would codify Newsom’s goal of banning in-state sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035.
In other environmental news: CalMatters has launched a water and drought tracker with daily updates on key data points, including reservoir and snowpack levels and the number of households reporting water shortages. Come back often to see how conditions change over time.