EARTH DAY: KEEPING IT IN THE GROUND
Los Angeles is home to the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the country. About 500,000 people in LA County live less than half a mile from an active oil well. We know oil and gas pollution are fueling global climate chaos and a local public health crisis. Unfortunately, we are now learning that those same airborne pollutants increase our risk of complications from COVID-19.
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Big Oil aggressively fights against regulations and common sense protections and is using the pandemic as a pretext to roll back the scant protections in place.
On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Angeles Chapter’s Clean Break Committee and the Central Regional Group held a Facebook Live Forum about the Inglewood Oil Field. Participants included State Senator Holly Mitchell, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager , Culver City Council Member Daniel Lee, Sierra Club National Associate Director of the Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Monica Embrey, Chair of the Clean Break Team (and moderator) David Haake, M.D., and Chair of the Angeles Chapter’s Central Group and former nurse (and host) Barbara Hensleigh.
The event was visionary and inspiring yet still provided practical ways to move forward. Among other topics, the participants discussed how to emerge from the pandemic with a sound economy that is not producing fossil fuel, but is producing healthy outcomes that work for everyone. In effect, a post-COVID Green New Deal. Senator Mitchell believes we have a sympathetic ear in the current administration in Sacramento and is looking forward to getting the 2,500 foot health and safety buffer and oil drilling protections the Sierra Club has been seeking for hears signed into law.
Councilmember Lee spoke to the fact that the Culver City City Council, in its unanimous decision to stand up to the oil industry and stop drilling in the Inglewood Oil Field, was reacting to people power. In that same vein, Assemblymember Kamlager said:
So this is my call to action to Sierra Club: Lead us into that new space, because you have the people power, you have the advocacy and you have the data that will turn lives and conversations around.
COVID-19 was on everyone’s minds. Council member Lee noted that we have an opportunity to change our society. We have proven that many people can work from home, with an opportunity for cleaner air for all. Council member Lee also spoke about having a real green blue alliance that is based on an understanding that the crash in oil prices is a wake-up call, that the oil economy is not sustainable, and that unions should train their workers for a just transition to a clean energy economy.
Finally, Senator Mitchell summed up the fight ahead with these words:
The three of us, as electeds, are activist policymakers. Quite frankly, we come from activist roots. And that's what encouraged the three of us to run for office. And so it's making sure that Sierra Club and all of the environmental justice organizations understand the lane you're in, the role you play in terms of pushing policy…Finally, it strikes me as we spend so much of our time talking about [the pandemic], the Assemblywoman and I we're on a black caucus call yesterday with the governor who shared with us devastating statistics in terms of the number of African-American fatalities as a result of COVID. And what struck us was not only the numbers, it's a disproportionate high rate compared to our numbers in the overall state, county or city population, but also who within the black community. We all hear the high risk population is 65 and older and those with other obvious health conditions. But for black people in California, it's 18 to 49 years of age. And when we think about the population that lives around Inglewood and the other oil fields [and] when we recognize how many of them have health conditions, asthma, other respiratory conditions because of the zip code in which they were born and live. This is yet another layer that further should invigorate our fight and brings value to this issue around environmental, economic and health justice for all California residents. So I appreciate the opportunity now and that we will continue to partner.