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Puppets And Masks: How a Community Is Urging Governor Brown to Take Action

During rush hour, commuters in West Los Angeles were treated to a theatrical demonstration.

Photo credit: Deirdre Bolona

During rush hour, commuters in West Los Angeles were treated to a theatrical demonstration calling attention to the conflict of interest in Governor Brown’s administration. Residents from the San Fernando Valley were joined by activists to rally for Brown’s Last Chance: Shut Down Aliso Canyon outside the high rise in which Kathleen Brown, the sister of the California governor, resides. Brown serves on the board of directors for Sempra Energy, the parent company of SoCalGas, the operator of the Aliso Canyon gas storage site that is responsible for the largest gas release in US history. As part of her service on the board, she has received more than $1 million in Sempra stock.

Using giant puppets representing Kathleen and Jerry Brown, as well as other key Sempra management, and masks representing some of the ailments, such as migraines, swollen eyes, and nose bleeds, that residents say are being caused by the toxic chemicals emitted by the facility, protesters told the story of how Governor Brown has enabled the gas company to act in what many affected by the 2015 blowout feel is bad faith toward the some 1.5 million residents who live nearby.

The main goals of the event were to demand that Governor Brown use his authority to sign an executive order that would shut down the still leaking storage site and that Kathleen Brown resign her seat on the board to end the conflict of interest.

The sponsors of the event, Save Porter Ranch and Food & Water Watch are just two of the many (at least 800 to date) community, faith, and environmental organizations to sign on to the Brown’s Last Chance movement since it began in April 2018. Present at this event were members of such groups as the Center for Biological Diversity, DailyKos, and Consumer Watchdog.

Among the Brown’s Last Chance actions being urged of Governor Brown before he leaves office in January 2019, are the banning of fracking, stopping any more gas and oil wells, immediately shutting down the SoCalGas storage site at Aliso Canyon, and transitioning the state to 100% sustainability.

“Jerry Brown would like to be remembered as the governor who led the fight to protect the climate, but no climate hero would allow the site of the worst gas leak in U.S. history to remain open for so long,” said Alexandra Nagy of Food & Water Watch. “If he is serious about fighting climate change, he will close Aliso Canyon before he leaves office and ask his sister to step down from Sempra’s board. His climate legacy is on the line.”

In October 2015, workers at the SoCalGas storage site located in LA County, above the San Fernando Valley, realized well SS-25 was leaking. It took four months and several attempts to stop the blowout. In the meantime, tens of thousands of San Fernando Valley residents were temporarily relocated, and some 1,550 users of the Environmental Health Tracker have reported 49,000 health symptoms since the app became available on October 14, 2017. These symptoms ranged from severe rashes to asthmatic attacks. Six teachers at Castlebay Elementary School in Porter Ranch lost their lives from forms of cancer usually associated with exposure to toxic chemicals. Just recently, a deposition of a chemical engineer who was responsible for testing at the site revealed that the carcinogen benzene was found at the site at 1,000 to 7,000 times the level considered safe by the State of California.