by Anonymous (not verified) on November 14, 2014

By Michele Prichard, Director, Common Agenda, Liberty Hill



"All we need is the will to change. . ."

                        Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


The recent blunt report from the IPCC asserted in the strongest terms ever that continued burning of fossil fuels has already caused climate calamities around the globe—and is now posing a grave threat to our future. The scientists unanimously called for urgent, ambitious and decisive action.

Here in Los Angeles, grassroots organizers, aided by recent grants from Liberty Hill, are heeding that message and taking action in their own communities—but from a slightly different perspective.

Drawn into the fight for climate justice through experiences in their own neighborhoods—including severe health symptoms such as nosebleeds, nausea and heart palpitations, fear of explosions and disruptions from diesel truck traffic and drilling operations—these new “climate activists” are making the connection between the local and the global.

Indeed, Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the struggle between the old, fossil fuel-addicted economy and the new, “green” economy that promises improved environmental health, renewable energy and a massive expansion in jobs devoted to implementing conservation and an alternative energy economy. Read more about the consequences of L.A.'s unregulated oil industry in our urban oil drilling report. 

Once the Saudi Arabia of the world, the Los Angeles region today produces millions of barrels of oil in a state that is the 4th largest producer in the nation.  And now, Los Angeles is seeing expanded oil drilling and development resulting from advances in new horizontal drilling and well stimulation technologies that threaten the health and safety of surrounding neighborhoods.

Liberty Hill established the “Fund for Environmental Health and Safety” and distributed 10 grants totaling $300,000 to a diverse set of organizations from South LA to Culver City to Baldwin Hills to the Harbor, working to halt expanded oil drilling in densely populated urban communities.  The organizations span the County, but also represent a range of different groups—from neighborhood-based defense committees to mature organizations with significant policy, legal and scientific expertise.  And, they are employing a diverse set of strategies—from community organizing to community-based research and education, to coalition-building and policy development.

Three groups—Holman United Methodist Church, Esperanza Community Housing, and the Redeemer Partnership—all  received grants to address the oil drilling operations located in their communities that are within close proximity to homes, multi-family apartment buildings, churches and schools.  Each of these communities has faced unresponsive regulatory agencies, a lack of transparency and notification by local authorities, and energy company PR that denies there is any problem or cause for concern.  Most residents have had to go to extraordinary lengths to find out the basic facts of the oil drilling operations—including the amount of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that are used in massive quantities to keep the oil wells “stimulated” and producing at peak levels.

Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA was funded to provide technical assistance to the local groups to help them monitor and engage resident voices in the permitting process. Communities for a Better Environment will bring its significant experience in community organizing, litigation and scientific research to monitor City and regulatory policy and to educate decision makers about harmful health and neighborhood effects.  In Long Beach, Culver City, Baldwin Hills and Wilmington, local groups received funding to educate neighbors, conduct community-based research and participate in public hearings.

Liberty Hill’s Environmental Health and Justice Program Manager, Daniela Simunovic, noted that Liberty Hill’s launch of the Fund for Environmental Health and Safety “comes at a pivotal moment in the fight to address global warming and climate justice around the world.  Just two months ago, over 300,000 people marched through New York City streets to call attention to the need for dramatic action in advance of the upcoming UN Climate Summit.  Many of the demonstrators in New York City probably don’t even know about the local effects of oil drilling and oil refining that happen here in LA.”

As new drilling technologies enable oil production in the United States to soar to levels that were unimaginable even just a few years ago—driving down the cost of energy and perpetuating our addiction to dirty, fossil fuels—the IPCC Chairman’s plea for the “will to change” is of utmost urgency.

Liberty Hill is proud to support communities throughout LA on the frontlines of expanded oil drilling who are showing us how to “Think Global, Act Local”.

They are building the “will to change” door-by-door, neighbor-by-neighbor and block-by-block in their communities.


  1. Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA
  2. Communities for a Better Environment
  3. Redeemer Partnership
  4. E-Lab (a collaborative of East Yard Communities for EJ; End Oil and Earth Justice)
  5. Esperanza Community Housing Corp
  6. Holman United Methodist Church
  7. Community Health Councils
  8. Coalition for a Safe Environment
  9. Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community
  10. Food and Water Watch