CA Governor Newsom’s Inaction to End Complicity in New Drilling in the Amazon: Evident in Mass Indigenous Protests in Ecuador and More Citizen Pressure Statewide and at Summit of the Americas

In the shadow of the Summit of the Americas, massive Indigenous protests unfolded for nearly 3 weeks in Ecuador, and growing civil disobedience in California illustrate the need for Governor Gavin Newsom to take action to ensure the state’s refineries will not be complicit in new drilling in the Amazon. The reason? Despite its progressive image, California imports nearly 50% of all crude oil exported from the Amazon. On average, that’s 1 in 9 gallons pumped in the state.

Since April of this year, activists in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area have increasingly been stepping up calls for Governor Newsom to stand up to Big Oil and ensure the state is not complicit in new drilling in the Amazon.

One reason why massive Indigenous protests took place in Ecuador is to end the expansion of oil, mining, and other industrial extraction in Indigenous territories. Ecuador’s President Lasso had announced a decree to double oil production — putting nearly 8.4 million acres of roadless rainforest at risk of being auctioned off for oil development — which was opposed by all seven Indigenous nationalities whose territory overlaps with the oil and mining concessions. In the final negotiations to end nationwide protests, this decree was eliminated and is representative of a substantial victory for the indigenous movement — if this commitment is upheld.

During the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles earlier in June, Governor Newsom was the target of calls for action from Indigenous Amazonian leaders at rallies, marches, and vigils — who are actively calling for California to end complicity in new drilling in the Amazon. and Amazon Watch deployed two massive 50'x40' banners on the Queensway Bridge in Long Beach to demand Summit of the Americas leaders take action to stop the imminent expansion of Amazon oil drilling.

(PHOTOS/VIDEO available here)

The first banner called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to stand up to Big Oil and end California’s role as primary importer of Amazon oil, while the second banner called on Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso to stop the expansion of drilling in the Amazon rainforest. The messages highlighted the “Linked Fates” of the two regions during the pivotal Summit where international leaders, including Governor Newsom, U.S. President Joe Biden, and President Lasso, were in discussions. The protest took place between the Queensway Bay — where tankers full of Amazon oil travel to the Long Beach port — and two of the top three California facilities where the rainforest oil is refined.

Images can be found here, as well as on social media under the hashtag #LinkedFates or #StopAmazonOil.

California Connected to Massive Oil Expansion Planned in Ecuadorian Amazon

It is shocking that two thirds of Amazon oil exports currently flows to U.S. refineries and the majority to California. Governor Newsom has been a strong leader on electrification of transport, but he has done little to address the problems caused by refineries and their appetite for oil from the Amazon and California itself. Newsom must continue to leverage his position as the leader of the world’s fifth largest economy to make it clear that the state wants no role in driving new drilling in the Amazon and communicate this to heads of state in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru on the road to putting crude sourcing screens in place for refineries in California..

Governor’s Newsom’s leadership on the problem of oil expansion in the Amazon is a moral necessity, but Newsom also has reasons to be concerned about this issue politically. According to citizen polling from Directions Research, two-thirds of U.S. citizens are concerned about Amazonian oil imports and would be more likely to vote for elected officials who will take action.

Last year, and Amazon Watch released Linked Fates, a groundbreaking investigative report that tracks crude oil from the Western Amazon and found that 66% of all oil exported from the Amazon goes to the U.S., with the majority of that oil being consumed in California.

Linked Fates shows how California converts 50% of the Amazon oil exported globally into fuel for airports such as LAX, distributors such as, trucking fleets such as PepsiCo, and retail gas giants such as COSTCO. Oil extracted in the Amazon is linked to violations of Indigenous rights, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, and increased fires following road-building. It certainly contributes to climate change.

This research shows that despite the state’s progressive image and leaders, California consumes more oil from the Amazon than any other region in the world. In fact, 1 in 9 gallons pumped on average in California comes from the Amazon, and in Southern California, the average is 1 in 7 gallons. Marathon, Chevron, and Valero — all in California — are the top 3 refiners of oil from the Amazon. Of the Amazon crude refined in the U.S., 2020 data showed 27% going to Marathon, 22% to Valero, and 17% to Chevron.

Todd Paglia, Executive Director said:

“The world is waking up to the threat of climate change, and the fact that renewables and electric vehicles can ramp up rapidly. Governor Newsom is the first governor in a position to lead not only his state but the nation and the world into this clean energy future. A huge part of this leadership is ending his state’s role as the world’s largest buyer of oil from the Amazon Rainforest.”

Dr. Daniel Lee, Culver City Mayor, U.S. Congressional Candidate:

“Culver City has shown that it is possible to phase out oil drilling. Governor Newsom and California need to ensure that the state won’t be complicit by fostering new drilling in the Amazon without expanding domestic production. Ending the expansion of oil drilling in the Amazon is a critical human rights, climate, biodiversity priority. 1 in 7 gallons pumped in Southern California is Amazon-derived, we as Californians need to do what it is right and find solutions that will bring that number to zero gallons. I stand in solidarity with the growing chorus of California citizens calling for action now.”

Nemo Andy Guiquita, Waorani Indigenous leader and Women and Health Coordinator of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) said:

“Oil drilling in our Amazon has brought contamination, disease, deforestation, destruction of our cultures, and the colonization of our territories. It is an existential threat for us and violates our fundamental rights as Indigenous peoples. We are calling for an end to all new extraction on our lands and urging Californians to stand with us and demand Governor Newsom end the Golden State’s complicity in Amazon destruction.”

Wilder Zeiser, Senior Climate Campaigner at, who was on site at the protest, said:

“We will continue to represent concerned citizens from around this state and around the world who are shocked by California’s role in consuming more oil from the Amazon than any other region in the world. It’s time for Governor Newsom to stand up to Big Oil and stop poisoning people in refinery communities and extraction zones in both California and the Amazon.”



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

We challenge corporations and governments to treat people and the environment with respect, because our lives depend on it.