John Hernandez and Jennifer Blue work with our SP team in South Los Angeles. John is one of the primary community organizers for Redeemer Community Partnership, an organizing group founded by members of Church of the Redeemer, our South L.A. church plant where Jennifer works as an Associate Pastor. For the last few years, John, Jennifer and others have been organizing around an oil drill site that moved into the neighborhood. Residents have argued that the drill site is releasing foul smells, toxic gases, and is a noise nuisance, and have pushed the city to impose stricter regulations on the drill site to protect neighbors.
John shares about the experience:
In 2016, we filed a petition with the City of Los Angeles to hold a public hearing for nuisance abatement at the Jefferson Drill Site. The action asked the City to enforce existing conditions and impose new health and safety protections equal to those the Planning Department has extended to wealthier, whiter West L.A. neighborhoods. Based on the evidence we presented, the City responded favorably, requiring the oil and gas company to demonstrate their compliance with all conditions in preparation for a public hearing.
The company hired an expensive law firm to tell the City that they would not follow the law and failed to comply with the City's order by the September 1, 2016 deadline. The City has now responded by telling the company that they are responsible for complying with the law regardless of what their legal counsel advises. The City has given the company a new deadline, which has passed, and warned them that the City will hold a public hearing with or without their compliance. We are very encouraged by the City's actions on behalf of our community.
Jennifer shares about her experience below:
The oil and gas company twice refused to follow the law and submit a plan approval application (where they would have to submit evidence and prove their compliance to existing city laws), and so the City has finally gone forward in scheduling this public hearing where we as community members will have the chance to voice our complaints and concerns about the thousands of acids and toxins they have pumped under our homes and released into the air in our community. The easier-to-extract oil in our area has long been pumped out, and in order to extract the what is left, they have to use a method far more dangerous than fracking (if you are familiar with that). They have to use acidic acidization, which not only involves pumping toxic acids into the ground, but it also brings large amounts of hydrogen sulfide to the surface--a very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive gas.In 2016, the company started spraying Chemco Odor Control Jasmine, a chemical compound used to mask this very hydrogen sulfide. This "de-odorizer" actually contains nonylphenol ethoxylate, a suspected endocrine disrupter which is a chemical that interferes with reproductive health across generations.
There are layers upon layers of injustice here. We are demanding that the City require the company to build in the same community protections that drill sites in wealthier West L.A. are required to have. On a Friday afternoon in January, the company's new lawyers filed a petition to reschedule the public hearing. The community organizers have already mobilized residents, who had requested time off work and lined up childcare to attend. Delays are a common tactic to tire out public will in situations like this.
Two well-heeled oil industry lobbying firms have already paid their visits to our City Council officials, expressing their concern about this potential ruling against the company at the Jefferson drill site. Never before has a nuisance abatement application been used in this way. Our community organizers have used this law to close a number of nuisance liquor stores in our neighborhood. But no one has ever taken on oil drilling in this way. The industry rightfully recognizes that a favorable ruling in our situation could set a precedent for other communities like ours around the country to require similar protections. We are praying that God would not only bring justice for our community, but that this would be only the first drop in a ripple-effect. We would love your prayers for God to have the truth of what is happening come to the light, and for our City Council to do what is right and just.
As the fight continues, hopes for what this could mean for South L.A. and the nation mount. As God calls our staff to care deeply about the systems that affect them and their neighbors, transformation is taking place--systems that at one point did not work in the favor of the poor are beginning to. We praise God for his work in South L.A.
The Los Angeles Times has written several articles about the organizing effort. You can find one article here.