South L.A. Residents Seek to End Oil Drilling on Catholic Church Land
For years, community members have been fighting to shut down two oil sites that operate on land leased from the Catholic Church in dense residential neighborhoods. The sites, operated by AllenCo and Freeport McMoran, have become lightning rods in their communities as hydrocarbon and hydrogen sulfide emissions from the sites have caused illnesses in the community.
In 2013, nearly three years of community organizing paid off when the EPA finally shut down the AllenCo site and fined operators $99,000 after their investigators toured the site and immediately fell sick with severe headaches and nausea due to toxic chemicals. Residents have experienced a marked decrease in health problems since the shutdown—but worry what will happen when the site re-opens later this year.
The other drilling site on Archdiocese land, the Murphy site in Historic West Adams, has plagued residents with similar health and safety concerns. The site operates 24 hours a day and many neighborhood residents keep their windows closed throughout the day to out the noise, fumes and ash.
“This is a low-income community of color that is already overburdened with a variety of health threats. The health and climate impacts of oil drilling are well documented, and yet the Archdiocese is allowing it to continue despite objections from the community," said Pastor Kelvin Sauls, of Holman United Methodist Church and resident of the community adjacent to the Murphy Site. "Religious organizations have a mandate to advocate for poor and use their resources to serve the community rather than cause it harm."
The fact that the L.A. Archdiocese is actively seeking to keep these sites open, despite demonstrated harms to the community, has disappointed residents who had hoped to see a stronger response from a religious institution that purports to protect the underprivileged.
Last year, after hydrogen sulfide poisoning sent young Naelli Cobo to the hospital with severe headaches, stomach pains, and heart problems, she recorded a moving plea to Pope Francis, calling on him to protect her community from AllenCo’s reopening. Upon hearing the news of the Pope’s announcement today, she expressed hope that the local Archdiocese will take a stand to protect her neighborhood. “Like the Pope said, we need to protect our common home. I hope the Archdiocese will take his words to heart.”
Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling—Los Angeles (STAND-LA) is a coalition of community groups that are dedicated to safeguarding the well-being, health and safety of Angelenos living and working in close proximity to oil drilling sites