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CALPIRG UCLA End Oil Drilling Student Stories Episode 2

Julissa Alvarado June 26, 2021

California has an oil drilling problem, despite our status as a climate leader in the US, California is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the US trailing only Texas and North Dakota. Many of these extraction sites are located in ecologically sensitive zones or in the middle of bustling cities, like here in Los Angeles, which is the Country’s largest urban oil field with over 5,000 extraction sites with many of them being concentrated in low-income areas of our city. Fossil fuel extraction also takes place in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of our state like the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River Delta– Many communities have spoken out in opposition to this practice and it’s time we ended oil drilling in California.
Personal stories are an important part of CALPIRG’s End Oil Drilling campaign because we want to lift the voices of people from our own communities that have been affected by this issue. Los Angeles is the largest urban oil field in the country so it is likely that we all know someone that has lived near/been affected by an oil drilling site. This makes ending oil drilling an environmental justice issue that we are working on to build public support, mobilize advocates to make their voices heard, and lobby for policies that will tangibly improve these communities’ quality of life and health. By incorporating student stories, we hope to give a platform to students and community members affected by this issue to influence listeners so that they can get involved in making a change. It is important that others realize how close to home the problem is and that we can use people power to work to take back our local environments from the special interest
Our most recent student story was provided by Cynthia Ortega, a 4th-year Biology major from Wilmington, CA. She lives near two oil refineries: the Marathon Refinery and Phillips 66 Refinery. Oil refineries are industrial processing plants where crude oil is transformed and refined into products such as petroleum and gasoline. Refineries are large contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and also emit air pollutants such as Particulate Matter, Nitrogen Oxide, and Sulfur Dioxide. These EPA criteria air pollutants can negatively impact the health of residents living in close proximity to these facilities. During our interview, Cynthia expressed that there is a lack of communication between these sites and the community regarding the processes that occur in those facilities. She also discusses how they have affected her local environments and why she would support a ban on oil drilling. This student story was important for us to highlight to demonstrate how students from our own school community are impacted by these polluting sites that are in places we call home.