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Brown: 'Grossly Hypocritical' To Oppose Oil Production In California

Gov. Brown is pictured in Beijing, China in this undated photo.
Gov. Brown Press Office / Twitter
Gov. Brown is pictured in Beijing, China in this undated photo.

Jerry Brown’s trip to China earned him wall-to-wall media coverage — internationally and here at home.

Much less covered was another environmental visit the California governor took just weeks earlier: to Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County, a transportation corridor with some of the worst air quality in the state.

“It is a little surprising to actually be there (in Bell Gardens) and witness first-hand the amount of cement, the number of cars and trucks and trains, and the proximity of parks and basketball courts,“ Brown told Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford in an interview last week during a car ride through Beijing. “But that’s the reality. California has 33 million vehicles and 39 million people. So they have to be somewhere.“

Those two trips highlight competing tensions as Brown seeks to shape climate change policies in California and around the world.

Click on the audio player above to listen to part of Brown's interview with Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford last week in Beijing. The clip begins with the governor answering a question about whether he was surprised by what he saw in Bell Gardens.

Despite Brown’s ascension to the global stage in the fight against climate change, as evidenced in his journey across China last week, he’s far from universally admired by environmentalists here at home.

Many of them believe the governor sides too often with oil companies on issues like fracking and isn’t doing enough to force cuts in air pollution in parts of the state with poor air quality.

Take, for example, Americans Against Fracking co-founder David Braun of Oakland, who wrote in an email: “I'm wondering if you might ask Brown to reconcile the millions of dollars he has taken for himself and his projects from the oil industry, along with firing regulators at the industry's request, with his position on climate change. I'm curious as to how one can do the bidding of the same industry that is the worst polluter as far as climate change is concerned, and how he reconciles that within himself.“

So we took that question to the governor, who defended his record as a necessary balance in a state and nation where road and air travel dominate most people's lives.

“I wonder how that reader reconciles driving a car or riding a bus or getting in an airplane,“ Brown said. “If they’re walking in bare feet or something, then I’d say, well, yeah, you’re living consistently.“

The governor is in talks with the oil industry – among many other groups – as he seeks an extension to California’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission reduction program.

"There’s something grossly hypocritical about saying we don’t want any oil production in California; we want it among poor and third-world people, and let them suffer, whereas we want to just have our nice, clean environment. That’s not bearing the burden with the benefit." — California Gov. Jerry Brown in an interview with Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford in Beijing, China, on Thursday, June 8, 2017