Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize

PSR-LA Year in Review
Highlights and successes from PSR-LA’s program work in 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, we want to thank you for standing with PSR-LA through another momentous year. Despite an increasingly difficult political climate, PSR-LA won important health protections and advanced our goal of creating a safer, healthier environment for all communities.

Navigating these troubled times is a bit like learning to drive—we have to keep the big picture in sight. Yes, there are obstacles in our way that make the work harder, more frustrating, dangerous even. But if we keep our eyes on the prize—a world without nuclear weapons; safe, clean, renewable energy; upstream solutions and policies that protect vulnerable communities from environmental toxins; government agencies that prioritize people over polluters—we can change what is possible by fighting for what is necessary.

It’s been an incredibly exciting year, and we’re proud to share our accomplishments with you.

Highlights from our work in 2018 include:

  • PSR-LA led efforts to pass strong nuclear disarmament resolutions in the Los Angeles City Council and California legislature as part of the “Back from the Brink” campaign, organizing a coalition of peace, student, veteran, interfaith, environmental and justice groups in the process.
  • PSR-LA sprang into action after the Woolsey Fire started at and burned much of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), working with community members to increase public pressure for the site to be fully cleaned up. PSR-LA was featured in numerous local and national media stories about the fire at SSFL.
  • PSR-LA’s work to reduce oil and gas emissions that harm health and speed climate change advanced as we played a key role in an international campaign calling for real climate leadership, halting all new oil infrastructure development, and enacting health and safety buffer zones to protect communities.
  • PSR-LA grew our work to promote a just transition by working with scientists, advocates, businesses, and community members to find safer alternatives in toxic industries.
  • PSR-LA is working with Naomi Klein and other advocates to develop a community driven plan to rapidly decarbonize LA while addressing income inequality and environmental justice impacts of extractive industries.
  • PSR-LA built upon the success of our 500 Feet Tool, an interactive mapping tool that shows the proximity of hazardous and sensitive uses in South Central LA, by using data from the project to develop policy recommendations that will be featured in an upcoming report and shared with other communities.
  • PSR-LA is launching a new campaign with Californians for Pesticide Reform and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice to document and address the production of dangerous pesticides and how that production affects farmworkers, community health, and the health of our food system.
  • PSR-LA continues to play a vital role in building robust and strategic leadership in affected communities while advocating for environmental justice in important decision-making rooms across the state, as we do with agencies such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC).
  • PSR-LA provided issue and advocacy training to over 150 physicians and health professionals through our health ambassador program, and worked with a collaborative of residency programs to host the 2nd annual “Don’t Mourn, Organize” event, which addressed critical environmental and social justice issues and advocacy tools.

Success brings new opportunities. After passing the LA and California Back from the Brink resolutions, PSR-LA was asked to take a leadership role in the national campaign. We’ll also be leading the implementation of AB617 in South LA, which will create a new cadre of community-based leaders to shape and champion air quality policy that benefits frontline communities living next to industrial sites. PSR-LA also faced new challenges this year. Climate change is creating new and worsening health threats—like the Woolsey Fire, which began at SSFL, a nuclear meltdown site—which require us to marshal all our forces to respond as quickly and capably as we possibly can.

Especially in these turbulent times, PSR-LA must increase our unrestricted funding so we can be free to pivot to urgent needs that may not be funded by our grants. Today, we are asking for your generous donation to help PSR-LA meet new opportunities and challenges with the resources they require.

One of the most rewarding outcomes we had this year was significantly increased participation in our work by medical students and young health professionals. It’s been exhilarating for us to see a new generation eager to learn how they can be effective advocates for upstream policy solutions. We’re also growing our team to meet an increasing demand for the strong and principled voice of health professionals and communities working together. This year, PSR-LA welcomed several new staff members who bring valuable experience, unique insights, and fresh energy to our team.

We know that 2019 will again require us to be brave, bold, and nimble. And that’s where you come in. Your financial support allows us to stand up for the most vulnerable and stand up to the most powerful. Your donations enable us to be flexible, creative, and to respond effectively to important public health threats and opportunities as they emerge.

Thank you for supporting PSR-LA. Together, we can create a safer, healthier world.

Nuclear Threats
Working toward a Nuclear Weapons Free World: PSR-LA led efforts to pass a resolution in the Los Angeles City Council that urges the U.S. to embrace the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and implement other critical nuclear security measures. Our success inspired the 2017 Nobel Prize winning group, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), to launch a new “Cities Appeal” campaign to win support for the TPNW in cities throughout the world. PSR-LA also helped pass a similar resolution in the California State Legislature. The resolutions are part of a new national grassroots campaign called “Back from the Brink: A Call to Prevent Nuclear War.” PSR-LA held several nuclear disarmament educational events throughout the year, and participated in legislative advocacy at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s annual DC Days.

Safe Storage of SONGS Nuclear Waste: PSR-LA advocated for safer storage of spent nuclear fuel from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The nuclear waste is currently being buried on the beach, just a few hundred feet from the ocean. PSR-LA helped generate over 5,000 comments on the California State Lands Commission’s Draft Environmental Impact Report for the SONGS decommissioning project. The comments urged that SONGS waste be moved further inland to the Mesa on Camp Pendleton and be stored in concrete reinforced buildings, and opposed any efforts to move the waste to a “consolidated interim storage site” due to transportation risks and lack of consent from the proposed communities.

Cleaning Up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL): PSR-LA joined with Parents vs SSFL and to promote a petition that now has over 530,000 signatures calling for the full, promised cleanup of nuclear and chemical contamination at SSFL. We successfully advocated for the removal of plans to build hiking trails near SSFL from LA County’s Master Trails Plan for the Santa Susana Mountains, and for the City of Simi Valley to shelve plans to use groundwater for drinking water.

Some of our worst fears about the delayed cleanup were realized when the Woolsey Fire began at and burned much of SSFL, risking heightened exposures to its contamination. We’re working with community members and local elected officials to urge governor-elect Gavin Newsom to ensure that the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) enforces the SSFL cleanup agreements and appoints a strong reformer to head DTSC and oversee a top to bottom reform of this deeply troubled agency.

Air & Climate Justice

Fighting Oil Extraction for Public Health and Climate Justice: We made major advances in our city and statewide effort to challenge oil and gas extraction as a driver of both climate change and environmental racism. We played a key role in Brown’s Last Chance, an international campaign where hundreds of groups called on Governor Jerry Brown to demonstrate real climate leadership by tackling oil drilling in California. With PSR-LA as co-chair, the STAND-LA Coalition organized a standing-room-only Town Hall event with LA City Council President Herb Wesson and other South LA elected officials. And we partnered with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project at their 3,000-person conference and a City Hall rally. PSR-LA is also creating a new statewide network of communities affected by oil and gas extraction facilities

Air Quality in South LA: PSR-LA was one of only a handful of organizations across the state selected by the California Air Resources Board for a Community Air Grant through AB 617. We plan to lead a team of community organizers, advocates, and scientists to engage community residents and stakeholders around local sources of air pollution in South Los Angeles, the first time a comprehensive air quality-related project will be conducted there. Our project in 2019 will entail the creation of a community-based air monitoring network and air quality academy that will ensure that South and Southeast Los Angeles get the real air quality and health improvements.

The LEAP and a New Climate Emergency Mobilization Department: Once again, PSR-LA is showing national leadership. For over a year PSR-LA has been working with Naomi Klein’s LEAP Project, the LA City Council and several allied community organizations to push for the establishment of a groundbreaking Climate Emergency Mobilization Department. This department aims to facilitate a rapid and just transition off of fossil fuels that meets the needs of working class communities of color hit hard by poverty, racism, and the burdens of the fossil fuel economy. The environmental justice movement’s work on just transition is now being picked up and repackaged as the Green New Deal. PSR-LA is and has long been the public health voice for a non-extractive economy that places health and human rights at the center and we will continue to work with front line communities toward that end.

Land Use & Health

The 500 Feet Project: The Land Use and Health Program gained considerable momentum and recognition in 2018. The 500 Feet Project is a response to the increasingly grave health consequences of poor land use planning seen in the South and Southeast Los Angeles Community Plan areas. Using the tool we are identifying measures to mitigate the impacts of incompatible land use in some of LA’s most overburdened communities. The tool, accompanying game, and community data collection process allows communities to ground truth pollution sources and sensitive sites—through which we have already found dozens of polluting facilities that are not in any public data source.

In 2019, we’ll be able to hit the ground running with our newly published report, which will be used to uplift community voices in decisions that impact them. Our plan is to share the report and connect with community-based organizations not currently familiar with or involved in our work so that we can expand and encourage community-based decision-making practices throughout the city and county. We also hope to use the report to support decision-makers in land use and planning processes so that government and regulatory agencies make it a practice to be proactive about developing healthy, community-driven, and community-serving spaces

Pesticide Reform: In collaboration with our partners, Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), PSR-LA is finalizing a report on one of the largest pesticide manufacturers in our region, which formulates agrochemicals for crops, human and animal insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators, and soil fumigants sold in different forms throughout the region.

Protecting Health from Toxic Chemicals: PSR-LA continues working to build bridges with greener industries, scientists, and business partners in the garment, auto-body shop, beauty product, and cleaning supply industries as part of our efforts to clean up toxic industries. From October 2017 through January 2018, PSR-LA worked closely with Antioch University, the Paramount Community Against Toxins, and Movement Generation to develop broad areas of research around systemic change that emphasizes ecological regeneration and the protection of social well-being. PSR-LA will continue to work with communities that are over exposed and under protected from toxic contamination in our air, water, soil, and bodies. Additionally, through the work with the coalition Californians for Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE), PSR-LA hosted a green chemistry and green zones webinar, focused on how green chemistry innovations can and should be focused on reducing the use, exposure, and disposal of toxic chemicals.

Water Quality In 2018, we grew our work on water issues through the Better Watts Initiative that highlighted community concerns about poor water quality and lack of water agency accountability. Over the next year, PSR-LA will continue to build capacity of health professionals and communities to understand water systems, and more importantly, how to be effective advocates for clean water.

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