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After Los Angeles Youth Sued City for Discriminatory Drilling Practices, the Oil Industry Sued Back

Los Angeles is a city built on oil, and even today more than a thousand derricks still pump it from the shallow reserves beneath the city…In LA, the number of residents living less than a mile from an oil well is in the tens of thousands. But how close you live to a drilling site may depend on the color of your skin and socioeconomic status, placing communities of color disproportionately at risk, according to a lawsuit brought by three LA youth groups against the City of LA…

The lawsuit claimed that the City’s pattern of reviewing — and “rubberstamping” — applications to open new oil wells and drill again in old ones was not only in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires environmental impact reviews and public input on projects which could cause environmental harm, it also unfairly put the health of communities of color at risk.

Instead of each application undergoing a case-by-case review of the potential environmental, health, and safety impacts, the City of LA was regularly granting exemptions from these reviews “as rule of law,” according to Gladys Limón, an attorney for Communities for a Better Environment…

Limón says that this information surfaced after communities in areas affected by expanded drilling activity started talking to each other and realized “the same sorts of patterns that they were experiencing were true for other communities.” At that point, her organization began digging through city files and investigating whether that might be the case…

The community is afflicted by one of the highest cancer rates in the southern part of the state. Oil and gas drilling is associated with pollution known to have numerous health impacts, ranging from asthma and headaches to a higher risk of cancer in children…

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