Nearby residents are working on health issues

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Magali Sanchez Hall, who has lived in Wilmington for over 20 years, suffers from asthma throughout her life. She states that health problems are due to being close to oil and gas drilling.

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Los Angeles, California. — As soon as you leave the coffee shop near Interstate 110 in the Wilmington district of Los Angeles, you’ll be struck by a foul odor.

Magali Sanchez-Hall, 51, who has lived here for over 20 years, is accustomed to the smell of rotten eggs drifting from hundreds of wells operating in the neighborhood. She is accustomed to asthma, which affects her neighbors who explain the diagnosis of chronic cough, skin rash, and cancer, and her family, who live just 1,500 feet from the refinery.

“When people have cancer or asthma, they may think it’s normal or blame genetics,” she said. “We don’t look closely at the environment we are in. It’s because of the chemicals we breathe.”

Wilmington is primarily a working class, a Latin immigrant community of more than 50,000, and the region with the highest incidence of asthma and cancer in the state. Reportedly By a non-profit community for a better environment. Surrounded by six oil refineries, it is sandwiched between several highways and the ports of LA and Long Beach.

California, 7th largest oil producing country In the United States, there are no rules or standards regarding the distance an active well must be away from the community. For many Californians, especially black and brown residents, the pungent odors, noises and stains from oil production are part of the neighborhood.

As you roam Wilmington, you’ll see pumpjacks in public parks next to the playground where children play and outside the windows of their homes. At night, the refinery flare turns the sky orange.

The discovery of oil in the 1920s has significantly increased the population of the region. People built and bought houses next to oil fields and refineries that employ thousands of people in the area. In LA County, the industry employs about 37,000 people. Reportedly According to Parliament Building Matrix Consulting.

An oil tank sandwiched between houses in the Wilmington area of ​​Los Angeles.

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According to an analysis by the non-profit Frac Tracker Alliance, more than 2 million California residents live within 2,500 feet of active oil and gas wells, with an additional 5 million (14% of the state’s population) 1 Within miles.

Residents are particularly vulnerable in LA County, home of the Inglewood 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. Over 500,000 people live within a quarter of an active well that emits harmful 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 link between the nearby refinery and the health problems of her community until she left. She graduated from college, earned a master’s degree from UCLA, where she took an environmental law class, and is now advocating clean air and energy in her neighborhood.

“Wilmington has zero pollution,” Sanchez Hall said. “I understand why people are dying of cancer around me. We are not disposable people. Many of us don’t know what’s going on, so there’s a big disadvantage. . “

There is no buffer zone between excavation and people

Studies show that people living near oil and gas drilling sites are exposed to harmful pollution. Premature birth, Asthma, Respiratory disease And cancer.

Living near oil wells is associated with decreased lung function and wheezing, and in some cases daily exposure to indirect smoking and living by the highway, according to a recent study published in the journal. I have a breathing disorder comparable to. Environmental research..

Another study, Published in the journal Environmental Health PerspectivesWe analyzed the births of approximately 3 million women in California who live within 6.2 miles of at least one oil or gas well. The authors conclude that living near these wells during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight infants.

Environmental protection group Governor of California Gavin Newsom Revive the 2,500-foot buffer zone, Or a setback between the fossil fuel business and homes and schools. This year Bill to ban hydraulic fracturing and revive buffer zones The state committee vote failed.

Other oil-producing states, including Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have already introduced some form of buffer zone between real estate and wells.

In 2019, Newsom ordered regulators to study such health and safety regulations, but missed the December 2020 action deadline. State oil regulators have also missed a more recent spring deadline to announce new regulations that help protect the health and safety of people living near drilling sites. The California Geographical Energy Management Department, which oversees the state’s fossil fuel industry, has not yet set a new regulatory schedule.

Meanwhile, since 2019, the governor has approved approximately 9,014 oil and gas permits. According to the analysis of state data By Consumer Watchdog and Frac Tracker Alliance.

“The front-line community has long waited for very basic protection from dangerous oil and gas projects,” said Holin Kretzmann, a lawyer at the Center for Biodiversity. Sued the state For approving thousands of drilling and hydraulic fracturing projects without the necessary environmental reviews.

“The safety buffer is minimal,” Kletzmann said. “The fact that our state continues to lag is frustrating and completely unacceptable.”

Josiah Edwards, 21, grew up near the largest oil refinery on the west coast. “Oil drilling and refineries have always been the background of my life,” he said.

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The Western Province Oil Association and the State Construction and Trade Council opposed the state-wide obligation to establish a buffer zone, arguing that doing so would harm workers and increase fuel costs.

“A state-wide universal approach to such issues rarely becomes a good public policy,” said Kevin Slangle, a WSPA spokesman. “Setback distances that are not based on region-specific data can have a significant impact on the affordability and reliability of community, work, and state energy.”

Environmentalists are also calling on Newsum to establish an immediate moratorium on all new oil and gas permits in these zones.

Earlier this year, the governor instructed state agencies to: Suspension of new hydraulic fracturing permit by 2024 Then, consider phasing out oil production by 2045. The announcement showed Newsom’s change of position. No execution authority According to the state’s Nature Conservation Department, banning hydraulic fracturing, which accounts for only 2% of California’s oil mining.

Newsom’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Newsum’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, who took office between 2011 and 2018, has approved 21,397 new wells. More than three-quarters of the new wells under Brown’s control are in low-income and colored communities. According to state data Analyzed by the Biodiversity Center.

“I could have had a better life.”

Josiah Edwards, 21, grew up in Carson, in the South Bay area of ​​Los Angeles, near the largest oil refinery on the west coast. Marathon Oil Co., Ltd... Edwards and his family were suffering from asthma and were always worried about inhaling the emissions of a nearby refinery.

“Oil rigs and refineries have always been the background of my life,” said Edwards, a volunteer member of the Los Angeles environmental group Sunrise Movement.

Edwards remembered getting bloody noses as a kid and linking them to pollution from refineries. He jumped into a study of how exposure to pollution contributed to the development of asthma in childhood, wondering if his life was different from growing up elsewhere.

“It upsets and upsets me. There are situations in which I may have been able to lead a better life with improved health results,” Edwards said. “I still feel angry, but I find a lot of hope about what I can do. There is potential for change.”

Marathon spokesman Jamal Cary said the company’s refinery in Carson has invested in air emission controls over the last decade, reducing standard pollutant emissions by 35%. We have also invested $ 25 million to install an air monitoring system along the perimeter of the facility and are providing those results to the public.

The Wilmington Athletic Complex is next to the oil tank.

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Locally phase out oil and gas

Some parts of the state put the problem in their hands.

Culver City, LA County Ordinance passed Phase off oil and gas mining in that part of the Inglewood field within five years. This is one of the most ambitious moves by oil jurisdictions. The ordinance also requires that all wells be closed and abandoned during that period.

Located northwest of LA, Ventura County has a buffer zone of 2,500 feet between wells and schools and 1,500 feet between wells and homes.

LA County supervisors also unanimously resolved earlier this month to phase out oil and gas drilling and ban new drilling sites in unincorporated areas. The county is set to determine the quickest way to legally close a well before providing a timeline for phasing out.

Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the Nature Conservation Department, of which CalGEM is a sub-agency, said the department is “eager to develop science-based health and safety regulations to protect communities and workers from the effects of oil mining activities. We are working on it. ” “”

“This is a complex set of rules that includes subjects other than previous regulatory experience,” Roper said. “This includes close collaboration with other state agencies and an independent panel of public health experts to ensure a thorough analysis of relevant scientific and engineering practices.”

LA could become one of the first major cities in the United States to phase out fossil fuels from its electricity supply without disrupting the economy. Recent research commissioned by the city.. Technologies such as solar farms, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles enable migration while reducing harmful air pollution in the most vulnerable communities.

“There are local officials who take this issue seriously,” Kletzmann said. “But the fires, ongoing droughts, and heat waves in California clearly remind us that we need to take more daring action on fossil fuels.”

Nearby residents are working on health issues

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