A Vote for AB 1299 Puts Families Health at Risk

Press Release
September 12, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Sarah Hersh, CLCV, 510-550-8170/510-759-2921

Kay Cuajunco, CEJA, 619-889-7865

Kern County, California – Today, the environmental and environmental justice community responded to the passage of Assembly Bill 1299 out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. This bill is a last minute effort by Senator Hurtado, Assemblymember Salas, Senator Grove and Senate leadership to create a special exemption for oil refineries in Kern County that will put the health of local residents - including hundreds of kids - at risk.

AB 1299 exempts emission monitoring of toxic pollutants from a refinery in Bakersfield, California, in the shadow of a farmworker community and in a region that already has the most polluted air in the entire country. One of the refineries targeted for this change is located across the street from Fuller Acres, a rural community with just under a thousand residents (a third of whom are children). 77 percent of people who live in the neighborhood adjacent to this oil refinery are Latino/a.

There is also a broader concern that this bill will set a dangerous precedent for additional oil refineries in rural communities to receive similar exemptions. Air monitoring systems are important preventative and informational measures that help ensure public health and safety.

There is, however, an opportunity to stop this shortsighted bill as it still needs to be considered by the full Senate and Assembly.

The following are statements from leaders at CEJA and CLCV in response to AB 1299:

Katie Valenzuela, Policy & Political Director, California Environmental Justice Alliance

“Rural communities are entitled to the same protections as urban communities. This bill is an affront to extensive health data and the decades of advocacy and community organizing to combat the negative impacts of oil in our communities. These communities have a right to know what is in the air they’re breathing.

Our communities deserve clean air and good jobs. We need our elected officials Assemblymember Salas, Senator Hurtado, and Senator Grove to fight for that - not a giveaway to a refinery with extensive health and safety violations on record. Our electeds must be accountable to their constituents who are paying the price of the impacts of Big Oil in their communities.

We urge our decision-makers to stand with the most impacted communities before industry interests. Our elected officials still have the chance to do the right thing by voting no on AB 1299 on the Senate Floor.”

Mike Young, Political Director, California League of Conservation Voters:

“This bill is nothing more than a last ditch effort by Assemblymember Salas, Senator Hurtado, and Senator Grove to put the profits of the oil industry above the safety and health of their constituents. Allowing exemptions for oil refineries for toxic contamination is unacceptable and even more so when you’re doing it the most polluted places in the country.

“This is incredibly backwards for California. At a time when our state is leading the country’s environmental resistance against the Trump Administration, lawmakers are also trying shoehorn a giveaway to the oil industry. It’s shocking that our leadership in the Senate is supporting this Trump-esque rollback move. We should be acting bolding and proactively on these issues, not lowering clean air standards in the neighborhoods already breathing the most toxic air.

“We are disappointed in President pro Tempore Toni Atkins. As the leader of the Senate, she holds the ultimate responsibility for this industry giveaway. We are also deeply disappointed in Senators Allen, Skinner and Hill, who voted for AB 1299 in Committee yesterday. As strong environmental leaders, we expect so much more from them.

However, this is not a done deal. There is still time for our elected officials to do the right thing and vote no on AB 1299 on the Senate Floor.”

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