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Climate Advocates Push San Diego's Sempra Energy For Change

Climate advocates march with signs outside the downtown San Diego headquarters of Sempra Energy on May 14, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
Climate advocates march with signs outside the downtown San Diego headquarters of Sempra Energy on May 14, 2021.

San Diego-based Sempra Energy is under fire from the inside and outside as the fortune 500 company’s shareholders met virtually Friday.

About 100 people protested outside the Sempra energy building in downtown San Diego while the online meeting was underway.

Climate Advocates Push San Diego’s Sempra Energy For Change
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson

They carried signs that blasted the energy company’s support of fracking, a relatively recent way to tap into natural gas reserves trapped inside rocks. Fracturing those rocks releases the gas so it can be harvested.

The protesters marched up and down the sidewalk outside the company headquarters, sometimes chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Fossil Fuels have got to go.”

Video: Protesters Rally At San Diego Based Sempra Energy Ahead Of Company's Annual Meeting

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Speakers blasted the company for earning millions of dollars off a product that’s bad for the environment.

“They don’t want to transition to clean energy,” said Brenda Garcia Millan, a member of the San Diego Climate Action Campaign. “They keep investing in fossil fuels, dirty energy. And that is really damaging for our communities. They basically keep us from accessing clean energy.”

The protesters say fossil fuels poison the planet at a time when large corporations should be working to stop climate change.

“Addressing climate and justice really requires u s to take a look at the truth,” said Sonja Robinson of the Protect Our Communities Foundation.

Robinson said brown and Black communities suffer the most when big companies like Sempra ignore the science of climate change.

“We need to embrace really rights. It is our constitutional right to be free from fossil fuel,” Robinson said.

Inside the virtual shareholders meeting, activists worked to convince shareholders to hold the company accountable on climate issues.

Climate advocates rally outside the downtown San Diego headquarters of Sempra Energy on May 14, 2021.
Erik Anderson
Climate advocates rally outside the downtown San Diego headquarters of Sempra Energy on May 14, 2021.

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The investors rejected a proposal to force the company to reveal whether its lobbying efforts align with the climate accord’s goals.

Advocate for the measure said getting more than 37% of the vote was a victory.

“This proposal underscores shareholder concern about anti-climate lobbying activities, whether done directly by a company or by its trade association,” said Lila Holzman, senior energy program manager of As You Sow. “Shareholders want companies to ensure their lobbying is aligned with Paris goals."

Climate advocates point out that the California Public Utilities Commission recently probed Sempra subsidiary Southern California Gas for the use of ratepayer funds to promote natural gas.

“While Sempra claims to support the Paris Agreement, its anti-climate lobbying tells another story,” Holzman said. “With this strong vote, investors are demanding answers as to how Sempra will resolve the apparent disconnect between its lobbying activities and the need to align its enterprise with the ongoing net-zero energy transition.”

Sempra officials did not return calls seeking comment.