Ventura, CA — More than 250 frontline community members and elected officials from across California rallied in Ventura — the fastest warming county in the U.S. — to demand action from Governor Gavin Newsom on fossil fuels. The rally took place at the site of a gas compressor station SoCalGas is currently planning to double in size despite problems with unplanned methane leaks and strong community opposition. The compressor sits across the street from an elementary school and a Boys & Girls Club. Approximately 500 people live within a quarter mile of the facility, but as many as 4,750 live within a half mile radius — close enough to be impacted by a gas explosion. At the rally, community members spoke in front of hand-painted signs and formed a human chain, linking arms from the gate of the elementary school to the compressor site to demonstrate their close proximity. [see photos here]
“Governor Newsom has the perfect example of climate leadership right here in Ventura where the community has won on establishing 2,500 feet setbacks between oil wells and schools and stopped the building of a new fracked gas power plant,” said Food & Water Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Now it’s Governor Newsom who needs to lead and stop this dangerous gas compressor facility from expanding. Each time Gov. Newsom allows a facility like this one to operate, not only is he complicit in fueling the flames of climate change via worsening drought and wildfires, he is also endangering the health of vulnerable communities on the frontlines of the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. We call on Gov. Newsom to take a stand with the people of Ventura and communities across California — stop the expansion of this gas compressor facility and direct your agencies to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Review before any other work can continue.”
“Southern California Gas compressor station caused me a very serious form of cancer,” said Westside Community Council Chair and Ventura resident Liz Campos. “And I don’t want any child or adult in this neighborhood to have to experience it. It’s painful. It’s hard. Children don’t need it in their future. So SoCalGas has to move to shut down.”
Residents voluntarily evacuated after natural gas was released from the compressor facility into the air over the Fourth of July weekend. Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava recalled SoCalGas’ response to the City’s inquiries: “They told us it was the equivalent of seven personal BBQ tanks and that there was no regulatory reporting requirement for this type of venting. But why not? Because to them, it was nothing. These happen two to four times a year.”
Hosted by the Westside Clean Air Coalition, Last Chance Alliance, Stop SoCalGas Coalition, and VISIÓN, the rally was attended by members of impacted communities working to shut down fossil fuel extraction and SoCalGas infrastructure such as the Playa del Rey Gas Storage Facility and Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, site of the largest gas blowout in U.S. history, as well as elected officials from around the state.
Wendy Miranda Arevalo of Communities for a Better Environment said, “I may live far from Ventura but I see how our issues overlap and how your neighborhood is like mine. I live in a neighborhood close to oil and gas drilling and refining. I have seen how these sites affect my health and my mother’s health, who has to use a nebulizer everyday so she can breathe. When I was in high school, my track team would run around the neighborhood, past drilling sites that we didn’t even know were drilling sites. We had asthma, nosebleeds. But we all deserve to breathe clean air and this is why we’re asking Newsom to stop the expansion of fossil fuels across the state and calling for an immediate end to oil and gas operations in neighborhoods.”
“I’m here representing 300 elected, representing half of all Californians, who are calling for an end to oil and gas drilling and 2,500 foot setbacks for the entire state,” said Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch. “And I’m not just talking about it. In Culver City, we’re doing it. We are next to the largest urban oil field in the United States — the Inglewood Oil Field — and we are shutting it down.”
Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, whose company has had its headquarters in Ventura for 48 years, said, “We want to stop the expansion of this site, then we want to remove the site, and finally we want to ensure there is a setback of at least 2,500 foot between fossil fuel facilities and residential areas.”
Residents staged a peaceful demonstration following the rally on Monday, July 19, passing out donuts and materials on health and safety to workers entering the site.