In a city famous for traffic and smog, it’s no secret that pollution is a serious problem for Los Angeles. But for low income communities and communities of color, the dangers of exposure to environmental hazards are most severe. People who live in "environmental justice neighborhoods," which are characterized by a combination of economic disadvantage and dangerous pollution, are at a greater risk for cancer, and are more likely to face exposure to industrial fossil fuel pollution than residents of affluent areas. For Liberty Hill, environmental justice is a cornerstone of social justice. We currently have three programs in place to fight for a safer, healthier, greener L.A.
When it comes to inconsiderate neighbors, urban oil drilling facilities top the list. An increase in urban oil field activity and an expansion of extreme techniques has drawn attention to health and safety hazards that go along with more drilling and transportation of oil in and around densely populated areas. South Los Angeles residents living close by these operations put up with constant loud noise, noxious odors and idling trucks feet away from their homes. Many people say they can’t open the windows even in stifling summer heat, and some suffer from headaches, nosebleeds and other symptoms. To make matters worse, community members say evacuation plans in the event of an explosion or hazardous leak are nonexistent. These are the issues behind Liberty Hill’s Fund for Environmental Health and Safety, which supports grassroots groups fighting back against powerful oil companies through community organizing, strategic research and policy change. Liberty Hill is a founding member of Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-LA), a coalition of community organizations on the frontlines of ending oil drilling in residential neighborhoods. For more on Liberty Hill’s support for Angelenos impacted by urban oil extraction, see our 2015 report DRILLING DOWN: The Community Consequences of Expanded Oil Drilling and Development, a detailed study on the issue. Email DrillingDown@LibertyHill.org to request your copy.
Liberty Hill is also working to achieve environmental justice in L.A.’s most polluted communities by establishing “Green Zones” through support of the Clean Up Green Up policy. The policy, which is currently under consideration by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, would establish "Green Zones" in communities that are designated "Toxic Hot Spots" because of the presence of numerous polluting facilities whose toxic emissions combine to create a heightened impact on people's health and on air quality. These "hot spot" neighborhoods−Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington−are working with the City of L.A. to reverse environmental injustice by encouraging new zoning laws and stronger enforcement of environmental regulations, along with sustainable businesses and greener jobs.
Promoting equitable development is another aspect of Liberty Hill’s environmental justice mission. With the passage of Senate Bill 535, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, twenty-five percent the money in the California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund must be spent in underserved communities. Liberty Hill is monitoring this process to make sure the money is going where it’s needed most, so that a clean, healthy environment is accessible to all.