Los Angeles’ “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice” rally and block party called on the City Council, Archdiocese of Los Angeles to end neighborhood oil drilling and keep the AllenCo drill site closed.
On Global Day of Climate Action, Hundreds of Angelenos Rallied in South Los Angeles to End Oil Drilling in LA Communities
On September 8, 2018, hundreds of Angelenos rallied in South Los Angeles to demand that the City of Los Angeles and Governor Jerry Brown protect communities from toxic oil drilling sites and phase out urban oil drilling in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Demonstrators gathered outside the notorious AllenCo Energy oil drilling site to call for the permanent shutdown of 21 oil wells in the South L.A. community, which operates on land owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Despite voluntarily pausing operations in 2013 after neighbors filed hundreds of complaints about noxious fumes and chronic health impacts, the oil company plans to restart drilling this fall.
Hosted by Esperanza Community Housing, STAND-L.A., and 350.org’s Southern California chapter, the rally was the Los Angeles satellite event of a global day of action on climate change. Hundreds of thousands around the world held events in solidarity with the Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice march ahead of Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco the following week.
Community members affected by oil drilling in South Los Angeles and Wilmington shared testimony of their experiences living near oil wells, including health symptoms such as chronic headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and increased asthma attacks. They called upon the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to end their lease with AllenCo Energy and, in consistency with Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical on climate change, keep the oil wells permanently shut down.
“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles not only has the power to keep these oil wells out of our community and fossil fuel pollution out of our air, they also have the responsibility to address climate change and care for those most impacted,” said Nancy Ibrahim, Executive Director of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation (ECHC), a social justice nonprofit that runs health equity and environmental justice programs in the surrounding community. “No community should have to fear for their health and well-being, or their child’s health and well-being, because of an oil well outside their bedroom window. It’s time the Archdiocese show compassion and protect the community they claim to serve.”
Speakers highlighted that the community immediately around the AllenCo oil site are not the only Angelenos—or only Californians—fighting oil wells in their neighborhoods. Los Angeles is home to over 800 active oil wells, and the majority of those operate in dangerously close proximity (less than a half-mile) to homes, schools, parks and churches. Over 20,000 new oil and gas wells have been approved throughout California in the past eight years of Governor Brown’s tenure – and 75 percent of those new oil wells were located in low-income communities and communities of color.
“This is not just a Catholic issue—this is a community issue. Across Los Angeles and throughout California, from Wilmington to Kern County, Californians are breathing dirty air from active oil wells in their neighborhood–and the reality is that urban oil drilling disproportionately affects communities of color, immigrants, and low-income families,” said Pastor Kelvin Sauls, co-founder and faith organizer for the Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-L.A.) coalition, addressing the crowd. “This is an issue of environmental justice, racial justice, economic justice and social justice.”
When asked why an organization in South LA would focus on climate change issues, we point to the history of racist land use and housing policy, chronic disinvestment, and extractive economic models that have exploited our communities’ wealth and health. In other words, we work on this issue because climate change is a racial and economic justice issue━it impacts people of color and low income people first and worst. — SCOPE LA
Rally participants urged city and state leaders—from Council President Herb Wesson to Governor Jerry Brown—to pass policies aimed at protecting families from the health and safety impacts of urban oil drilling. Specifically, impacted residents called for the establishment of a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer between oil wells and homes, schools, or any other sensitive land use.
“Oil wells in Los Angeles place thousands of people at risk of acute, and potentially long-term, health impacts,” said Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility—Los Angeles and co-chair of STAND-L.A. “Our communities have long been fighting for policies such as a 2,500-ft. setback policy because every family deserves a clean space to live, work, and play. We need space to breathe, that calls for leadership for climate justice from every level of government.”
A recent LA County Department of Public Health report outlined the health impacts of drilling on communities. The report explains that oil and gas development in Los Angeles is a serious health and safety concern because oil and gas wells are located around and beneath densely populated areas – sometimes with as much as 21,000 people per square mile in South LA. Other public health studies show that toxic air contaminants such as benzene and other carcinogens are most significant and most harmful within a half mile (2,640 feet) of active oil and gas wells.
To truly build climate resilience, our state must make a massive investment in the economic resilience of communities most vulnerable to climate change. California’s climate action should enable frontline communities to access training opportunities to retool for jobs in green industries and in the public sector. Every community member in South LA should have access to careers in pollution-free work environments, with wages that support a family, and in work that is both professionally and personally satisfying. Investing in people as opposed to just projects is an imperative our state must heed for climate action to improve the lives of Californians most threatened by climate change. — SCOPE LA
The Rise for Climate International Day of Action included 850 actions in 95 countries and a massive turn-out for the march in San Francisco, all urging action to solve the climate crisis. “Heat waves, extreme drought, deadly and destructive mega-wildfires have become the new normal in California,” said Jack Eidt, Co-Founder of SoCal350.org. “How can we adhere to the Paris Climate Accords, and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, with no plan to phase out oil and gas? Governor Brown can’t be a climate champion and then keep approving more extreme drilling using dangerous chemicals, offshore, in river valleys, above aquifers, in people’s backyards. It’s time for a managed decline of fossil fuels and an immediate transition to clean and renewable energy, or else we are cooked.”