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Open Letter to LA City Council and Governor Newsom

We need leaders that are willing to look us youth in the eye and show us their plan to save our future.

Photo by: Luchia Torro

Written by Chandini Brennan Agarwal and Luchia Torro

In early February, Chevron oil refineries spilled 600 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay, not only endangering the wildlife but also the communities around it. Californians have been demanding action on fossil fuels from our elected leaders for generations. Millions of Californians live within a mile of an oil or gas well in the state, putting them at risk for developing cancer, asthma, poor birth outcomes, and early death.

After a protest we (Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles) held with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Governor Newsom promised he would stop issuing new fracking permits and put in place multiple protective measures to keep communities safe. This includes restricting oil and gas activities within a close range of residential neighborhoods, schools, parks, and hospitals. These changes were supposed to begin in 2020 and continue to evolve throughout the year. Instead, Governor Newsom issued 83 fracking permits and over 1700 oil and gas permits last year, blatantly ignoring his promises and approving double the amount of permits as the previous year.

In California, youth-led and grassroots organizations, such as STAND-LA and ourselves, have been fighting for the health and safety of our communities for a long time. Frontline communities and climate justice activists have worked hard to build power and urge local and state regulators and elected officials to protect our health. Here in Los Angeles, we’ve asked City Council to shut down oil and gas facilities that blanket the city, and mandate distance between toxic drill sites and communities. Los Angeles is home to the largest urban oil field in the United States. Of the 2 million people living within unsafe proximity to oil and gas wells in California, 90% are people of color. The current pandemic exacerbates the health consequences of living near oil drilling, making it even more important to take immediate action and protect our communities.

Last December, the LA City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee (ECCEJ) voted unanimously to draft an ordinance declaring oil and gas extraction sites incompatible with healthy communities. While it passed unanimously with the committee, the youth feel that the council is dragging their feet in taking the ordinance to a vote with the full council. This is a major step in the process to phase out oil drilling and protect the lives and health of Angelinos, but too often, policy doesn’t move fast enough for the people on the frontlines. It remains to be seen when the entire LA City Council will be voting on the ordinance but they must pass it and prove that Angelinos’ lives are more important than fossil fuel money.

We need leaders that are willing to look us youth in the eye and show us their plan to save our future.

California and Los Angeles elected leaders have failed, time and time again, to protect the basic rights of their citizens and keep their communities safe. We are at a point in history where people like Governor Newsom and local leaders from LA to Sacramento have the chance to prove their leadership in the fight for climate justice. This must start with keeping fossil fuels in the ground. It must start with listening to the youth and to the people on the frontlines, who are taking power into their own hands.

Send an email to LA City Council about taking urgent action on this issue with this toolkit.

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