By John Noël, National Oil & Gas Campaigns Coordinator – Follow John on Twitter (@Noel_Johnny)
Pulling off California’s Highway 5, the road that takes you down the spine of the state is like a portal into another world. Lost Hills, a tiny town sandwiched between prime agriculture and oil fields, is ground zero for exploring the largely hidden impacts of California oil production. Rosanna Esparza, Clean Water Action organizer, and a few local community groups have been talking with local residents about the health and environmental impacts of oil production for the past year.
Amazingly, there have been no extensive studies of the health impacts on communities in the shadow of California oil and gas development. Clean Water Fund and Earthworks recently published a health investigation of the Lost Hills area in an effort to better understand the long term public health risks posed by the air these communities breathe every day. The results can only be viewed as a snapshot in time and more research is needed but the report is a clear indication of a serious problem. Lost Hills’ population is 97 percent Latino/Hispanic who’s “most disadvantaged community members often have no choice in where they live, and no voice in the decision-making processes that affect their daily lives.” As 43 percent of the community is below the poverty line, it is a clear case of environmental injustice that the community is not fully aware of the myriad of hazards posed by the incredible scale of oil and gas development upwind (learn more about the study here). With this in mind, I hopped in Rosanna’s car and we pulled away from the Lost Hills recreation center parking lot for a closer look. Read the rest of this entry »