Sunday, March 3, 2024

Patagonia Steps In to Support California’s Environmental Battle

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Leading outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, which is known for its environmental activism, is reinforcing its commitment to ecological causes with a sizable contribution to protect Californians from the impact of oil drilling.

As part of its longstanding tradition of supporting grassroots environmental movements, Patagonia is now a key contributor to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California. This involvement is a testament to the company’s fifty-year history of championing environmental initiatives.

The Holdfast Collective, the financial arm receiving Patagonia’s non-reinvested profits, has donated $500,000 to support legislation aimed at safeguarding Californians from the hazards of oil and gas drilling. Patagonia is based in Ventura, California, a region significant in oil production, where more than 8,000 residents live within half a mile of an oil well.

Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert emphasized the critical nature of this issue. “There are many important debates happening about how to address climate change, but we should all be able to agree, at the very least, on community safety—especially when families and children are at risk,” he said in a statement.

Patagonia is now owned by a planet-focused trust
Patagonia is now owned by a planet-focused trust

California is home to nearly 30,000 oil and gas wells — with many of them alarmingly close to homes, schools, hospitals, and public spaces, Patagonia says. This proximity poses severe health risks to more than two million people, disproportionately affecting communities of color. Risks include increased chances of birth defects, respiratory illnesses, and some forms of cancer. An independent scientific advisory panel in 2021 recommended a minimum setback distance of 3,200 feet (about one kilometer) between oil wells and sensitive areas to protect public health.

In 2022, the state legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom passed SB1137, mandating oil companies to enhance health and safety standards for existing oil wells within this 3,200-foot buffer zone and prohibiting new oil drilling within the same area. However, this law is currently suspended, pending a public vote in the November 5, 2024 general election, due to an oil company-funded campaign that successfully added a ballot measure to overturn these safety measures.

Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Executive Director of Communities for a Better Environment and a co-founding coalition member of STAND L.A. and the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California, criticized the oil industry’s tactics.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard | Courtesy Jimmy Chin

“Big Oil’s deceptive campaign to try and undermine a new law protecting communities against toxic oil drilling is shameful, and they will stop at nothing to protect their bottom line,” Sarmiento said, further explaining the coalition’s commitment, “That’s why our broad and diverse coalition, including youth and working families living next to neighborhood oil drilling, will work every day until the election to ensure that Californians vote to keep the law that establishes a 3,200-foot buffer zone from homes, schools and hospitals in place.”

Patagonia’s environmental justice efforts are longstanding and substantial. Over the past five years, the certified B Corp company has contributed over $16 million to such causes. Its 2020 film “District 15” highlighted the activism in Wilmington, California, where local efforts led to the state’s adoption of the setback law. Patagonia’s approach includes rallying customers and communities to support pro-environment candidates and policies, a practice initiated in 2004.

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