An analysis of data recently collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District team revealed that some of the poorest communities in Los Angeles County are enduring some of the heaviest incidences of oil drilling. About 15 zip codes, in which oil companies used the most chemicals known to cause serious health problems (“air toxics”) include several areas of Long Beach, South L.A. County and the Westside, revealed the data which was organized by analysts at the Center for Biological Diversity. CBD scientist John Fleming (who conducted the analysis) and other environmental justice advocates are urging Governor Jerry Brown, via their “Brown’s Last Chance” campaign to demand that he halt new oil and gas extraction and devise a just transition plan to phase it out entirely.
To date more than 800 organizations have signed on. Meanwhile, eleven of the 15 zip codes, CBD analysts said, include neighborhoods like Wilmington that are considered “disadvantaged” by the California Environmental Protection Agency.
“Oil companies are using massive amounts of chemicals that make people sick in communities already suffering high rates of asthma and other health problems,” said Fleming.
“State regulators give out drilling permits like they’re candy, and here in Los Angeles we see how it hurts people of color and vulnerable residents the most.”
An earlier analysis of air district data revealed that oil companies have used more than 98 million pounds of chemicals known to cause serious health problems in L.A. County since 2013, Fleming said.
“These air toxics were often used dangerously close to homes, hospitals and schools.
Over 80 percent of air toxics usage involved just 12 chemicals, including carcinogens like crystalline silica and formaldehyde. Hydrochloric acid, one of the most frequently used air toxics, is a corrosive gas that can cause suffocation or irreversible lung damage at high concentrations.
“ [This] analysis underscores the disproportionate harms of California’s oil extraction on vulnerable communities…”
“The massive proliferation of dirty drilling under Governor [Jerry] Brown isn’t just hypocritical, it’s horribly unjust,” said Shaye Wolf, CBD spokesperson via a statement released in August.
“Because of Brown’s refusal to rein in California’s oil extraction, thousands of wells operate dangerously close to homes and schools in vulnerable communities already suffering from some of the dirtiest air in the nation.”
California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources approved 21,397 new wells between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 14, 2018. Of the 16,554 of those wells with available geographic information, 76 percent are located in communities with above-average poverty rates for California, while 67 percent are located in communities of color.
Frackers have a long history in the Golden State. By 1930 California was producing nearly one quarter of the world’s oil output.
“This was the wild west of oil extraction, with an abundance of easily accessible oil, minimal regulation, and no understanding of the health or environmental impacts to create a true free-for-all,” according to members of Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, an environmental justice advocacy group in Los Angeles.
“L.A.remains the largest urban oil field in the country. Thousands of active oil wells in the Greater L.A. area are located amongst a dense population of more than 10 million people.
“Though conventional oil reserves have dwindled, oil drilling in L.A. still remains pervasive. Oil rigs dot the city but are often hidden from sight through the use of tall fences, clandestine structures… or by drilling in Los Angeles’ often overlooked low-income neighborhoods.”
California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states, extracting among the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive crude in the world. Three-quarters of the oil produced in California is at least as carbon-intensive as Canada’s tar sands crude, according to the CBD.
“Fossil fuel dependence is a disease, and environmental injustice is one of its nastiest symptoms,” Fleming said. “That’s why Governor Brown should tackle the root of this problem by planning an end to California’s incredibly dirty oil extraction.
Editors Note: Title was updated from original published/printed title. There was an error in the title.