A monthly roundup of links featuring the latest news on fossil fuels, neighborhood drilling, clean energy, and the frontline communities fighting climate change in Los Angeles and beyond.

Spotlight: Amazonian Drilling

Yasuni Man Screening in Los Angeles

In advance of a SoCal 350 collaboration in screening the award-winning Yasuni Man in LA on June 14 (get your tickets here), read up on Amazonian drilling and the local link between California oil consumption and biodiversity destruction/ human rights violations.

About the Award-Winning Yasuni Man and the LA Screening on June 14 | SoCal 350 Blog (June 2018) 

Join filmmaker Ryan Patrick Killackey, Amazon Watch and SoCal 350 plus movement leaders and celebrity guests for a screening and panel Q&A of Yasuni Man, an award winning documentary that tells the story of the Waorani people and their ancestral land, Yasuni, both threatened by extractive industries and other forms of invasion. Read below about Killackey’s experience in Yasuni, and the unknown, oft-ignored reality of California’s link to Amazonian destruction. Get your tickets for the screening and panel here.

Ecuador: Tribe sees how oil industry affects forest on ‘Toxic Tour’ | Mongabay News (June 2018) 

“’The land is dead,’ says Camilo Pauche as he surveys with consternation the devastation that the oil industry has left in Pacayacu, a village in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Camilo, an inhabitant of virgin forest, is part of a delegation of Waorani indigenous people visiting from Pastaza province to participate in an activity normally reserved for foreigners, academics and journalists: the ‘Toxic Tour.'”

The Erin Brockoviches of Ecuador | New Republic (May 2018)

“Indigenous women are taking the lead to protect both the Earth and their own rights, long experience with the extraction process having taught them to see the two as linked. Oil drilling, they argue, has deep repercussions for their health and safety…

‘We have put ourselves at the forefront of the entire resistance,’ Gualinga told me, adding that the Ecuadorean government had “brutally abused” the indigenous women stepping forward by harassing and punishing them, often with crackdowns on protesters. In 2014, the military invaded Sarayaku land, and in 2015 indigenous protesters were beaten and tear-gassed by police during peaceful demonstrations.”

Why California’s oil policy matters for the Amazon | Amazon Watch (April 2018) 

Does Amazonian drilling feel far off? In reality, “about half of the oil exports from the Western Amazon Basin come to California to be processed by refineries and used by consumers in the state. This means that more oil from the Amazon rainforest is used in California than anywhere else in the world.” California’s demand for toxic crude oil is tied directly to rampant deforestation and destruction across the Amazon.

Ecuador votes to reduce oil exploitation in Yasuni National Park | Mongabay News (February 2018) 

For years, Indigenous peoples have faced off against state-owned oil in the Amazon regions of Ecuador. “For the first time, those opposing the initiative have a crucial weapon to fight the extraction of oil, which began more than four years ago. This weapon against the extraction is known as ‘popular will’ and is supported by 6.1 million Ecuadorians (with 98.5 percent of the overall vote) who voted ‘yes’ to Question Seven on a recent referendum. The referendum was organized by President Lenín Moreno to address changes at the economic, political, judicial and environmental levels. The results of the referendum also eliminate Ecuador’s policy of indefinite reelection, which prevents former President Rafael Correa’s intended re-election to the presidency.”

New round of oil drilling goes deeper in Ecuador’s Yasuni national park | The Guardian (January 2018) 

“Ecuador’s state oil company has begun drilling the first of 97 planned wells inside a new field of the Yasuní national park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The opening of the Tambococha-2 well has triggered fierce criticism from conservationists, who say President Lenín Moreno is backtracking on a promise to protect the Amazon and pay greater heed to the opinion of indigenous groups.”

Yasuni Man film is an intimate portrait of a beautiful land under siege for its oil | The Guardian (October 2016)

“US biologist Ryan Killackey spent seven years filming a polemical account of a remote forest community under pressure from US and Chinese oil companies.”

May 2018

Will Gov. Brown plug the dangerous hole in California’s climate action? | EcoWatch

Under the Brown administration, CA has issued over 20,000 new permits for oil drilling, enabling the industry to keep tapping more fossil fuels. “A new report released by Oil Change International in partnership with 14 other environmental justice and climate groups shows that California will fall short of its own commitment to climate leadership unless it embarks on a managed phase-out of its oil and gas production. If Gov. Brown is serious about marshaling a response that is adequate to the challenge, he must take steps to limit fossil fuel production as part of California’s suite of climate policies.”

Say hello to Justin Trudeau, the wold’s newest oil executive | The Guardian

“In case anyone wondered, this is how the world ends: with the cutest, progressivest, boybandiest leader in the world going fully in the tank for the oil industry,” begins Bill McKibben’s powerful denunciation of Trudeau’s decision to nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia.

The Aliso Canyon gas leak was a disaster. There are 10,000 more storage wells out there just like it | LA Times

One of the worst environmental disasters in US history, the 118-day blowout and natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon caused estimates of nearly $1 billion in costs, evacuations and health impacts. The LA Times reports that as an oil well repurposed for high-pressure gas storage, it wasn’t designed for its current use — and neither are 2,700 wells nationwide. “Because of its vintage, at certain depths, it had only one layer of pipe separating the gas from surrounding rock. Wells built today use multiple concentric pipes, and only the innermost pipe transports gas so as to reduce the risk of a blowout… Aliso Canyon, though, wasn’t unique or even rare in having that single-pipe design.”

How one Los Angeles community is combating oil pollution with green spaces | Pacific Standard

“A predominately working-class and Latino immigrant community of 58,000, Wilmington sits atop the third-largest oil field in the continental United States. Five oil refineries release steam from nearly 200-foot stacks, their pipes and tanks clanging and hissing. Many of Wilmington’s residents work in the oil industry or in the nearby port, one of the country’s busiest. The Los Angeles Times called the neighborhood, wedged between freeways and the port about five miles from Long Beach, “an island in a sea of petroleum…

But change has been slow to come to Wilmington. Local activists—many of them young people—sued the city in 2015 for the discriminatory treatment of their communities; the city settled and implemented some changes, such as environmental impact studies and hearings for residents when companies propose expanding drilling sites.”

Southern California is losing its clouds and that’s bad news for fire season | Earther

A new study found summer in southern California is becoming less cloudy, which increases the risk of wildfires. This is frightening news following the record-setting, 6-month long Thomas Fire last year, the largest in the state’s modern history. “The data shows that stratus cloud cover from May-September has declined 25-50 percent across a number of sites in Southern California owing to the growing urban heat island and climate change. All this extra heat causes the clouds to dissipate or form in areas with less of a cooling impact.”

Why diversity in sustainability matters, and what you can do | GreenBiz

“There are still relatively few connections between communities of color and the environmental sector. The ongoing lack of ethnic diversity on environmental organization boards and staff suggests that, overall, talk of increasing diversity has not turned into widespread action.”

How California undercuts its efforts to combat climate change | Pacific Standard

Unless we stop fossil fuel drilling and pipelines and refinery expansions in California, our efforts to limit greenhouse gases will be just public relations moves while the planet burns and floods and freezes and gets blown away by superstorms. “Given all the attention to Brown’s environmental advocacy, it’s easy to forget that California is an oil state. Indeed, California is second only to Texas in the amount of oil extracted since 1900, and California crude is some of the dirtiest oil on the planet; much of what remains in the state’s reserves is thick as peanut butter, and energy intensive to both extract and refine.”

Del Mar considers unpopular ‘planned retreat’ strategy due to rising sea level | LA Times 

As the ocean creeps closer to people’s multi-million-dollar dream homes of San Diego County’s beach city Del Mar, the harsh reality of climate chaos materializes.  “The mere mention of the strategy known as ‘planned retreat’ in the city’s planning documents will ‘put a cloud of doubt over the future’ and cause property values to plummet,” among beachfront homes of Del Mar typically listing for more than $5 million.

April 2018

This young environmentalist lives 500 feet from a drilling site | Huffington Post

Protecting people and communities from drilling chemicals, odors, and noise is personal. Ashley Hernandez, the youth organizer of Communities for a Better Environment from Wilmington, is featured here. “She remembers staying indoors when explosions rocked the city’s oil refineries, being warned by adults not to drink tap water, and having her school soccer field roped off by yellow tape because of soil contamination.”

Glendale’s garbage and gas: Less is better | LA Times

“Power plants and landfills are two of the most potent sources of greenhouse gases, and Glendale is in the throes of reconfiguring both as the city tries to meet regulations to reduce dependence on dumps and fossil fuels. But the city is moving with eyes on the rearview mirror… Glendale has an opportunity to plan for a future that includes a variety of environmentally sound and less expensive alternatives than simply continuing to burn fossil fuels and bury trash.”

At least 11 hurt in explosion at Wisconsin refinery | CNBC

CNBC reported on April 26, a tank containing crude oil or asphalt exploded at a large refinery in Wisconsin, leading 11 people to be taken to the hospital. The Husky Energy oil refinery processes both heavy crude from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta and lighter North Dakota Bakken crude.

California oil and gas firms had nearly 400 violations in 3 years | Mercury News

The Center for Biological Diversity compiled records along with the Associated Press showing 400 instances of oil and gas companies drilling in state waters off Southern California violating regulations. Despite various violations from severe corrosion to failed and missing tests to gauge the strength of wells, no civil penalties have been issued. “We need to start getting all of this dirty decaying infrastructure out of our ocean for good,” said Kristen Monsell, attorney for the Center.

Rare desert spring imperiled by company’s plan to pump groundwater, researchers say |  Desert Sun 

The Cadiz Inc. proposal to pump 16.3 billion gallons of water each year for the next 60 years risks drying up the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert, a recent study finds. “Frazier Haney, land conservation director for the Mojave Desert Land Trust, said the new research shows those environmental review documents were based on incomplete science and that the water project poses a serious threat to the spring.”

 Jerry Brown’s work to seal his climate legacy is only half done| LA Times

Bill McKibben of 350.org wrote this op-ed spotlighting the nearly 800 groups including SoCal350 that released a letter Wednesday calling on Jerry Brown to act on climate in his final months as governor. “It seems a little churlish to prod Jerry Brown on carbon issues. He’s done as much as any leader in the world to move forward on the climate and energy crises that are the defining challenges of our time. But the truth is Brown’s not done anywhere near what he could, nor what the situation demands.”


Southern California water agency votes to fund controversial plan to build two water tunnels | LA Times

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted this week to commit nearly $11 billion to building two massive tunnels that will revamp the system that delivers water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta to the Southland. Up against corporate agri-business, real estate development, big oil and a strong push by Governor Brown, opposition is strong, citing how the project would “be used to rob the delta of more fresh water. The answer to the delta’s problems is to reduce exports and develop more local supplies, they say.”

The Fatal Flaw of Alberta’s Oil Expansion | The National Observer

“For environmentalists and climate scientists, the chemical composition of Alberta bitumen is cause for deep worry about toxic air emissions, potential spills into waterways and aquifers, and further destabilizing the Earth’s precarious climate. Together with First Nations, they have vowed to fight long and hard for ecological reasons.”

March 2018

Photo by: EcoWatch // CBC // YouTube

Risky Move: Canada Shipping More Tar Sands Oil by Rail

EcoWatch highlights the danger of crude oil by rail exports, which are expected to see a heavy boost this year among the Canadian tar sands. “And Canada has plenty of capacity to load oil on more trains, which means if a producer is willing to pay the premium to move oil by rail, it can find a customer to do it. The infrastructure is in place to load approximately 1.2 million barrels per day.”


Time is running out for Gov. Brown to shut down Aliso Canyon – The Los Angeles Daily News opinion piece argues shutting down Aliso Canyon, the site of the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history, is “Gov. Jerry Brown’s last chance to do something meaningful for the environment and set his legacy.”

‘The Harms of Fracking’: New report details increased risks of asthma, birth defects and cancer – Rolling Stone spotlights a recent report by Physicians for Social Responsibility that found “no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.”

A new generation of activists, born next to an oil refinery – This High Country News feature on the community leaders of Wilmington that grew up around the Tesoro refinery is a must read. “Arredondo is at the helm of a growing movement made up mostly of women of color who grew up here but left to get an education, and then later returned to battle the industries that are poisoning their families.”

LA County is not doing enough for residents near oil wells – ABC News published the findings of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that the County is not doing enough for residents that live near the 3,400 active oil and gas wells from getting sick.

LA to oppose $17 billion water tunnels if its residents pay more than fair share – Los Angeles Daily News reports that the LA City Council moved to oppose staged construction of a proposed multibillion-dollar water-delivery tunnel project if it would result in greater costs or a greater portion of the financial burden for Los Angeles ratepayers. “The agency’s support was considered key to the project’s success, and its directors must now decide whether to commit funds to the new staged construction proposal.”

Why gas-fired power plants are on the chopping block in SoCal – KPCC reports on the closing of three local power plants fueled by natural gas. “Cities and counties are banding together into energy purchasing groups that are steering away from gas-powered plants in favor of renewables. It’s a strategy called Community Choice Aggregation.” However, Glendale Water & Power is in the final stages of getting environmental approvals from City Council for a new gas-fired plant at the Grayson power plant.

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