The UC Santa Cruz chapter of the California Public Interest Group (CALPIRG) convinced Santa Cruz City Council on Jan. 23 to adopt a resolution calling for a statewide ban on the importation of Amazonian crude oil. Santa Cruz marks the first city to support it.
In passing the resolution, the City Council pledged Mayor David Terrazas’ time to contacting state officials to bring this issue to the state level.
CALPIRG member and UCSC first- year Zach Klieman said California needs to acknowledge its role in encouraging oil drilling because the bulk of environmental damage in the Amazon is caused by fossil fuel use. The increase in oil drilling has necessitated the construction of 900 toxic waste pits that seep into the local soil.
“[The Amazon] is one of the biggest carbon sinks in the world. California is the fifth largest economy in the world and we use a lot of fossil fuels, so we need to maintain the Amazon to counteract our impact,” Klieman said.
City Council agreed to alert local state representatives Senator Bill Monning and Assemblymember Mark Stone and to send a letter to the California Governor Jerry Brown.
“It is a pretty uphill battle. […] We are the first city in California to do this. California is the biggest consumer of Amazon oil. It is like planting a seed and hoping other people will pick up on it,” said City Council member Chris Krohn.
Krohn said he saw a similar situation in 2002 while serving as mayor. After Santa Cruz City Council passed a resolution against the Iraq War, over 90 Californian city councils followed suit.
Klieman recognized the resolution may receive criticism for its economic impact on Amazonian countries, many of which depend on the revenue from oil drilling as the base of their economies. One such country is Ecuador, which is paying $15.2 billion worth of loans with profits from petroleum. But while the country earns a profit, the drilling presents health risks. Chevron’s oil digging in Ecuador alone has caused 1,400 cancer- related deaths, increased chance of childhood leukemia and higher rates of miscarriage.
Patrick Jurney, UCSC CALPIRG campus organizer, said California is highly responsible for Amazon oil digging and its consequential environmental damage. California imports 74 percent of Amazon oil exports.
“Chevron alone has pumped  billion gallons of toxic waste water into the Amazon River. It’s basically the greatest man-made disaster,” Jurney said.
With Santa Cruz as a starting point, the statewide CALPIRG is turning its attention to the neighboring cities. The local chapter hopes this first achievement will catalyze a bigger movement, eventually leading to a statewide ban on Amazon crude oil importation.
“Hopefully in the next few months we will get approval from the Watsonville [City] Council. The reason we’re going this route is because historically, if the city of Santa Cruz and Watsonville adopt something, then the county will as well,” Klieman said.