Environmental Justice Advocates Respond to Oil Spill: End Neighborhood and Offshore Oil Drilling Now

Since 2019, Governor Newsom’s state oil and gas regulatory agency, CalGEM has issued over 9,000 onshore drilling permits while state lawmakers have repeatedly killed legislation that would have directly protected frontline communities from serious adverse health effects from oil and gas drilling next to homes, schools, prisons, and healthcare facilities, according to the groups.

Governor Newsom’s oil and gas regulators have continued granting offshore oil well permits also. As of October 1, 2021, there have been a total of 150 reported permits issued for offshore wells since January 1, 2019, according to a new analysis of permits approved through October 1, 2021 and posted at www.NewsomWellWatch.org by Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance.

In the wake of another disastrous oil spill, CEJA and VISION provided the following statements:

“Saturday’s oil spill devastated the natural environment and will continue to destroy local ecosystems. As an alliance of predominantly low-income and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) living in some of the most polluted regions of California, we mourn this extreme poisoning of water and land as yet another example of the exploitation and failings of the fossil fuel industry,” said Tiffany Eng with the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

“Our legislature has failed to protect Californians from the egregious harms of fossil fuel operations through inaction and delay tactics. Oil and gas pipelines, oil fields, and refineries are inherently dangerous neighbors that are incompatible with safe communities,” Juan Flores with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. “Childhood asthma and cancer rates climb, life-expectancies drop, and still our leaders give fossil fuel companies opportunities to line their pockets at the expense of human life. As we condemn this weekend’s oil spill and its impacts on local residents, we urge decision-makers to immediately end offshore and neighborhood drilling, followed by a swift phaseout of remaining oil and gas operations across the state.”

“Air pollution from neighborhood drilling is a chronic, invisible contamination on par with the catastrophe of an oil spill,but one that has continued for decades,” said Cesar Aguirre with the Central California Environmental Justice Network. “High cancer rates and respiratory and neurological diseases spill out from neighborhood oil fields every day, poisoning the people living, working, and going to school just feet away from oil and gas extraction sites.”

“California may be the “tent pole” of environmentalism as our Governor reminded us on Tuesday, but we are also the state with the highest percentage of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities living in dangerous proximity to hazardous sites. Nearly 7 million people, the majority BIPOC, live within a mile of oil and gas drilling sites. Of the 2 million Californians living within 2,500 feet of an oil and gas well, 92% are BIPOC,” said Bahram Fazeli with Communities for a Better Environment.“It’s time to enact commonsense setbacks between homes and fossil fuel operations and end neighborhood drilling.”

“The Orange County oil spill has shocking impacts, but it’s not a shocking occurrence. Oil spills are an “externality” of the oil industry at the cost of human life and our ecosystem. Refineries regularly flare poisonous emissions and sometimes explode; oil seeps in residential areas as pipes burst or leak; and deadly hydrofluoric acid is used next to homes,” said Gladys Limon with the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “Decision-makers have for too long normalized sacrificing the health of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry. Communities and youth are demanding transformative action and real leadership from decision-makers to protect their lives and futures. And while the Governor has moved the ball forward, too many legislators have held it back. Legislators must decide: will they continue to protect the fossil fuel industry or protect the people they were elected to serve?”

“As environmental justice organizations await a decision from CalGEM, the state oil and gas regulatory agency, that could move oil and gas wells away from neighborhoods, we hope that decision-makers will respond to Saturday’s tragedy with bold, urgent action to protect frontline communities across the state,” said Kobi Naseck with VISIÓN (Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods).

Meanwhile, the Unified Command continued its response Thursday to the coastal oil spill in Orange County:

“The preliminary findings estimate that 24,696 gallons represents the minimum amount of oil released from the pipeline based on flow metering following the recovery of crude oil using negative pressure.

In Orange County, the public can expect to see Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams and work crews equipped in protective gear, monitoring, inspecting, and cleaning the beaches to ensure that appropriate cleanup actions are taken. For your safety, the public is advised to avoid any contact with visible oil on the beaches.

The San Diego Emergency Operation Center has been activated to assist with coordinating oil spill response efforts in San Diego County. A Forward Operating Base has also stood up in San Diego to perform tactical on scene command functions.

South Coast Air Quality Management District, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the OC Health Care Agency, and a contracted environmental consulting firm, are conducting community air monitoring through mobile air surveys and air sampling at 12 sites located along the Orange County coastline. As of Thursday, air samples from areas potentially impacted by the oil spill are within background levels (air quality on a typical day) and below California health standards for the pollutants measured. Air monitoring efforts will continue under the Unified Command.

Out of an abundance of caution, crews have placed 300 feet of boom at the inlet to the desalination plant in the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Vessel owners impacted by the oil spill can file a claim by calling 1-866-985-8366. If your vessel has been impacted by the oil spill, we want to remind people not to clean their own boats, and to not use soaps or dispersants. 

The cause of the spill remains under investigation.”

For updates on the fisheries closures, visit https://socalspillresponse.com/fisheries-closure/.


Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.