For more than two decades, Wilmington resident Magali Sanchez-Hall has struggled with asthma all her life. He said the health problem stemmed from his proximity to oil and gas mining.
Emma Newberger | CNBC
Los Angeles, Calif. – When you walk out of a coffee shop near Interstate 110 in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles, you’ll immediately catch a foul odor.
Magali Sanchez-Hall, 51, who has lived here for more than two decades, is accustomed to the smell of rotting eggs from hundreds of nearby oil wells. He describes his neighbors’ chronic coughs, skin rashes and cancer diagnoses and asthma that affects his own family, who live just 1,500 feet away from a refinery.
“When people are getting sick with cancer or having asthma, they may think it’s normal or blame it on heredity,” he said. “We often don’t look at the environment we’re in and think – it’s because of the chemicals we’re breathing.”
Wilmington, a predominantly working class and Latino immigrant community of more than 50,000 people, has the highest rates of asthma and cancer in the state, according to a report from Nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment. It is surrounded by six oil refineries and bounded by several freeways and ports of LA and Long Beach.
California, the seventh-largest oil-producing state in the United States, has no rules or standards for the distance that active oil wells require from the community. For many Californians, especially black and brown residents, the intense smell, noise and dirt from oil production is part of the neighborhood.
Walking around Wilmington, pumpjacks can be seen in public parks, next to school grounds where children play and outside people’s windows at home. At night, the sky is illuminated orange from the burning of the refinery.
The discovery of oil in the 1920s resulted in significant population growth in the area. People built and bought houses next to oil fields and refineries, which employed thousands of residents in the area. In LA County, the industry employs about 37,000 people, according to a report by Capital Matrix Consulting.
Oil tanks tied inside homes in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Emma Newberger | CNBC
According to an analysis by the nonprofit Fracktracker Alliance, more than 2 million Californians live within 2,500 feet of a functional oil and gas well, and within 1 %% – 1 mile of another 5 million-state population.
Residents in LA County are particularly vulnerable, which is home to the England Oil Field. The 1,000-acre site is one of the largest urban oil fields in the country and is owned and operated by Sentinel Peak Resources. More than half a million people live within a quarter of a mile of active wells that release hazardous air pollutants such as benzene, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and formaldehyde.
Sentinel Peak did not respond to a request for comment.
Sanchez-Hall did not understand the connection between the nearby refinery and the health problems of his community until he left. He graduated from college and earned a master’s degree at UCLA, where he took environmental law classes, and now supports clean air and energy around him.
“Ground zero for Wilmington pollution,” Sanchez-Hall said. “Now I understand why people around me are dying of cancer. We’re not disposable people. It’s a big problem because many of us don’t know what’s going on.”
There is no buffer zone between drilling and humans
Studies have shown that people who live near oil and gas drilling sites are exposed to harmful pollutants and have a higher risk of premature birth, asthma, respiratory disease and cancer.
Lung function near oil wells is associated with decreased function and shortness of breath, and in some cases rival respiratory damage compared to daily secondhand smoke or living on the side of an open road, a recent study has revealed.
Another study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, analyzed nearly 3 million births of women living within 6.2 miles of at least one oil or gas well in California. The authors conclude that living near those wells during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight babies.
Environmental support group California Governor Gavin Newsom has requested a fossil fuel operation and a 2,500-foot buffer zone or push between homes and schools. This year, the state committee voted to ban fracking and the bill to establish a buffer zone failed.
Other oil-producing states, including Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have already implemented some form of buffer zone between property and wells.
In 2019, Newsom instructed its regulators to study such health-protection regulations, but they did not meet the December 2020 deadline for action. State oil regulators also missed another recent deadline in the spring to issue new regulations that would help protect the health and safety of people living near drilling sites. The California Department of Geological Energy Management, which oversees the state’s fossil fuel industry, has not yet set a new deadline for regulation.
Meanwhile, according to an analysis of state data from the Consumer Watchdog and the Fraktracker Alliance, the governor has approved approximately 01 oil and gas permits since 2001.
“Frontline communities are waiting for very basic protection from dangerous oil and gas projects,” said Attorney Holin Kretzman of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has recently sued the state for approving thousands of drilling and fracking projects. Environmental review.
“A security buffer is the minimum,” Kretzman said. “The fact that our state is running late is disappointing and completely unacceptable.”
Josiah Edwards, 21, grew up near the largest oil refinery on the West Coast. “Oil drilling and refineries have always been a current background in my life,” he said.
Emma Newberger | CNBC
The Western States Petroleum Association and the State Building and Construction Trade Council have opposed the statewide order to establish a buffer zone, arguing that doing so would hurt workers and increase fuel costs.
“A size-fits-all approach to such an issue for an entire state is rarely good public policy,” said Kevin Slegel, a spokesman for the WSPA. “Setback distances that are not data-specific for a region can have a significant impact on energy affordability and reliability in communities, jobs, and states.”
Environmentalists have called on Newsom to immediately suspend all new oil and gas permits in the region.
Earlier this year, the governor instructed state agencies to close new fracking permits by 2024 and to phase out oil production by 2045. Newsome has changed its declared position, saying earlier that it does not have the executive power to ban fracking, which accounts for only 2% of oil extraction in California, according to the state Department of Conservation.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, who served from 2011 to 2018, approved 21,39 new oil wells. According to state data analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity, more than three-quarters of new wells under Brown’s administration are in low-income communities and communities of color.
‘I could have had a better life’
Josiah Edwards, 21, grew up in the town of Carson, in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and near the largest oil refinery on the West Coast, owned by Marathon Petroleum Corporation. At the emission of nearby refineries.
“Oil mining and refineries have always been a current background in my life,” said Edwards, who is now a volunteer with the Sunrise Movement, an environmental advocacy group based in Los Angeles.
Edwards got bloody noses as a child and came to connect them with the contamination of refineries. He did research on how asthma can develop as a child, and wondered if his life would be any different from growing up elsewhere.
“It makes me angry and upset. There’s a situation where I could have lived a better life with improved health outcomes,” Edwards said. “While it still makes me angry, I have high hopes for what could happen. There is a possibility of change.”
Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheri said the company’s refinery in Carson has invested in air emissions control equipment over the past decade and its standards have reduced pollutant emissions by 5%. It has invested 25 million to install air monitoring systems along the perimeter of its facilities and is providing those results to the public.
The Wilmington Athletic Complex is located next to the oil tank.
Emma Newberger | CNBC
Periodically turn off oil and gas locally
Some parts of the state have taken matters into their own hands.
Culver City, LA County, has passed an ordinance to phase out oil and gas extraction in part of the Inglewood Oil Field in five years, one of the most ambitious steps in an oil-producing jurisdiction. The ordinance also requires that all wells be plugged in and discarded within that period.
Located northwest of LA, Ventura County has 2,500 buffer zones between oil wells and schools, and 1,500 feet between wells and homes.
And LA County caretakers voted unanimously earlier this month to stop oil and gas drilling and ban new drill sites in unorganized areas. The county is ready to determine the fastest way to legally close wells before giving a deadline to phase out.
Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the conservation department, of which Calgium is a sub-agency, said the department is working hard to create science-based health and safety regulations to protect communities and workers from the effects of oil-extraction activities. “
“It’s a complex rule with content outside of our previous regulatory experience,” Roper said. “It involves close collaboration with other state agencies and an independent panel of independent public health experts in an effort to ensure a thorough analysis of the relevant science and engineering practices.”
LA could become one of the first major cities in the United States to phase out fossil fuels from power supply without interruption to the economy, according to a recent study in the city. Technologies such as solar farms, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles will make change possible while mitigating harmful air pollution in the most vulnerable communities.
“There are local officials who are taking this issue seriously,” Krejman said. “But the fires, ongoing droughts and heatwaves in California are a clear reminder that we need to take more bold action on fossil fuels.”