PSR-LA Year in Review 2019

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2019 has been a year of tremendous growth for PSR-LA and as the year comes to a close, we want to thank you for everything you have done to support our work. While climate change and nuclear weapons continue to threaten our health and survival, the staff here at PSR-LA has not been deterred from our work to create environmental health and justice. By working together with impacted communities, we are holding regulatory agencies accountable and shifting power to win long-term systems change.

PSR-LA’s strength comes from our long history of commitment to intersectional, collaborative work and development of upstream solutions and policies that protect the most vulnerable. Additionally, as a physician membership organization, we are uniquely able to organize and leverage doctors and other health professionals to advance a strong public health message in all of our campaigns. When the credible voice of physicians meets the powerful voice of communities, we build the power that is needed to win important health protections and create real environmental justice.

Over the past year, PSR-LA has achieved a number of exciting victories. You can read more about these and other accomplishments below.


Nuclear Threats

Nuclear Disarmament: 2019 was a banner year for PSR-LA’s nuclear disarmament work. In March, we hired our first Nuclear Threats Associate, Alex Jasset, and assumed a central role in coordinating “Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War,” a national campaign that seeks to fundamentally change nuclear weapons policy in the United States. PSR-LA’s leadership role has helped the campaign to grow exponentially. This year, 20 municipal resolutions endorsing the campaign’s five-point policy platform were passed in the country, bringing the total number to 40, and three new statewide resolutions were adopted as well. The campaign gained 120 new organizational endorsements, bringing the total number to over 300. PSR-LA planned and hosted an incredibly successful webinar with participants from 37 states, and we are now actively assisting these communities to get local and state resolutions passed. Locally, PSR-LA led efforts for Santa Monica to pass a Back from the Brink resolution, and we organized a successful visit with Congressman Adam Schiff, during which he said he was persuaded to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 921, a bill that would make it the policy of the United States to renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first. We also participated in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Annual DC Days event, where our Associate Director, Denise Duffield, was recognized for her outstanding work to address nuclear threats with ANA’s Bill Mitchell Grassroots Activist of the Year award.

Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) Cleanup: In 2019, PSR-LA continued our decades-long efforts to ensure that all nuclear and chemical contamination at SSFL is fully cleaned up. We played an instrumental role in engaging the Newsom Administration on the need for the full, promised cleanup of SSFL and are heartened that the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) is now holding the Department of Energy and NASA accountable for complying with the cleanup agreements they signed with the state. PSR-LA also helped organize a sign-on letter urging DOE, NASA, and CalEPA to uphold the cleanup agreements. The effort was led by Rep. Julia Brownley and resulted in signatures by Senator Feinstein and seven other California Congress Members. In May, PSR-LA gave a presentation before the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board to highlight Boeing’s 57 exceedances of pollution limits in stormwater runoff from SSFL that it attributes to the Woolsey Fire, which began at and burned most of the site. In July, we worked with community members to organize Rock the Cleanup, an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the partial nuclear meltdown at SSFL. The event attracted over 200 people including local elected officials and Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, who filmed the event for their television show which aired Dec. 1st.


Air & Climate Justice

Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling: STAND-LA, a coalition co-founded and co-chaired by PSR-LA, is pushing for an unprecedented public health and environmental justice policy — a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer that would phase out active oil and gas wells dangerously close to homes, schools, medical facilities and other sensitive land uses. We have built a coalition of over 75 public health, environmental justice, environmental, faith-based, labor and community organizations across Los Angeles to support this policy, with leadership from frontline communities. Now that the Los Angeles Petroleum Administrator’s report has been released, STAND-LA is engaging the City Council and City Attorney to move the policy forward. Our work emphasizes the need for a just transition for workers and communities during a phase out of oil and gas production, including the creation of a workforce development and economic revitalization plan paid for by the oil industry itself. Additionally, through our work in the Last Chance Alliance and VISION coalitions, we are extending our oil and gas work to the state-level.

Climate and Health Emergency: LEAP-LA, a climate justice coalition co-founded by PSR-LA, focused on a comprehensive plan to decarbonize, detoxify, and democratize Los Angeles’ economy. In 2019, the coalition won approval from the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti for the establishment of a Climate Emergency Mobilization Office and Climate Emergency Commission to guide these efforts. We have won $1.2 million in dedicated funding from the City, including for seven community assemblies across the City aimed at engaging frontline communities in shaping the concrete projects of this Department. PSR-LA is working closely with the Mayor’s Sustainability Office and two City Council offices on implementing the goals of the commission. 

South Central Residents Fight for Clean Air: The South Central Los Angeles-Project to Understand the Sources of Air Pollution and Health Impacts (SCLA-PUSH) initiative is a collaborative effort led by PSR-LA in partnership with community organizations, community residents and academic partners that aims to strengthen the capacity of community residents and advocates to better understand the state of air quality and health in their community, and to engage in air monitoring and data analysis. SCLA-PUSH has hosted over 90 individuals at two informational sessions, and 40 attended our two community mapping workshops. We have strategically deployed four air monitors throughout SCLA to monitor particulate matter, and through two Air Quality Academies (AQA), we have now trained 50 community residents to understand the science of air pollutants, the process of monitoring air quality and collecting data, and how to engage in policy and regulatory spaces. In September, the AQA graduates used the skills they have been building when they attended the South Coast Air Quality Management Department board meeting to advocate for South Central Los Angeles to be considered for an air quality improvement plan.


Toxics & Water

Time for a Change! Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE) is a coalition of diverse organizations with a collective vision of creating economically just and environmentally healthy communities in California. Our work focuses on reducing our exposure and use of toxic chemicals while centering on environmental justice by focusing on community-driven campaigns and policies.In 2019, we strengthened our membership through educational capacity building, and leadership development workshops. We also developed a number of webinars and other popular education tools that highlight policy efforts in California and educate the public about the need to shift towards safer solutions that prevent exposure to toxic chemicals in environmental justice communities. The highlight of our year was the first ever CHANGE People’s Summit, which brought together leaders from impacted communities throughout California.

Organizing for Clean Water: PSR-LA’s water project aims to address drinking water quality issues in Southeast Los Angeles by bringing together community groups to examine their water systems. Participants are building their capacity to advocate for clean water by gaining a better understanding of the complexity of the LA water infrastructure and the agencies in charge, as well as the sources of contamination that are impacting water quality. In October, we took a tour of the LA Basin to get an introduction to how toxic sites are impacting LA, and how innovation and leadership in industry can help address water quality issues. In December, the Our Water, Our Health summit addressed water quality, how it impacts health, and what can we do to improve water quality in South East LA.


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.


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