On the morning of Saturday, May 18th, PSR-LA convened over 70 enthusiastic members from various California community organizations including Esperanza Community Housing, LA Community Action Network, Communities for a Better Environment, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, for “Promoting Health Land Use Decisions,” an informational and skills building workshop around the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and urban oil extraction. Both issues have tremendous impacts on our ability to create healthy communities. At the training, residents gained a better understanding of how CEQA and urban oil extraction affect a community’s built environment and public health. We connected community and resident groups with ways to engage in the process of strengthening CEQA, as well as develop effective policies that protect health and a community’s right to know about the toxic chemicals used and emitted by oil and gas exploitation in California.
CEQA, California’s landmark environmental law, involves residents in the process of reviewing projects by inviting comments and critiques on proposed plans. By ensuring they have a place in the discussion, CEQA give residents a voice in shaping their communities. At the workshop, members learned about current legislation aimed at either strengthening or weakening CEQA, and how CEQA affects community plans. Most participants expressed an interest in the ways that CEQA tools and process can be used to protect community health by requiring a more comprehensive health impact analysis.
Participants also took an in-depth look at the reality of urban oil extraction, both conventional and unconventional. A major highlight of the day was the discussion on Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking”. Fracking pumps millions of gallons of water and sand—mixed with thousands of gallons of chemicals—into underground rock formations to release oil and gas deposits. There is increasing evidence that fracking is associated with a range of health and environmental impacts including respiratory infection and rashes, miscarriages and cancer. Both CEQA and urban oil extraction are serious realities facing California’s communities today. By engaging with residents and community based organization PSR-LA hopes to build strong partnership with community groups so we can work together to prevent further harm to our communities, public health and the environment.
See photos from PSR-LA’s Promoting Health Land Use Decisions event: