About 50 local residents and activists gathered on Sunday morning to speak out against oil drilling in the city on Alamitos Beach, where tar balls washed up on on the sand in front of Island Grissom last year.
Just after 9 a.m., members of several environmental groups gathered on the sand to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the city to stop approving oil drilling permits at what they called “End Dependence Day.”
In Long Beach, 15 new oil wells were recently approved in the harbor on the Grissom island.
Andrea Vega, of Food and Water Watch, called this “unacceptable.”
“We don’t need this in our communities,” she said, speaking to protestors standing in a large circle, wielding colorful painted signs.
The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the organizing environmental groups present on Sunday, filed a lawsuit in May challenging the 15 new potential oil wells in Long Beach.
The lawsuit argues that the incoming Long Beach wells could violate a new state law that aims to prohibit new oil operations within 3,200 feet of sensitive sites such as schools and parks. But Sunday’s protest highlighted the fact that that law is on hold until voters decide on a referendum in 2024.
“We have a city, we have people here and we need to protect them,” Anna Christensen, an activist on the Sierra Club’s Los Cerritos Wetlands Taskforce who lives in the city’s third district, told the Post. “Where are your priorities? Is your priority to have a brand new pool to swim in or that people can breathe air where they live?”
The city has said it plans to abandon oil production by 2035, a process that would cost an estimated $133 million. As of last year, the city’s operated wells were producing about 22,000 barrels of oil per day.
“Long Beach was the Saudi Arabia of oil drilling back in the day and we have that history, we have that connection … A lot of people are very dependent on oil drilling even now,” Christensen said to the crowd.
Part of Sunday’s demonstration involved a mock oil spill, where street theater performers simulated marine animals getting caught in slick tar.
Protestors on Sunday called on Newsom to protect wetlands like Los Cerritos from oil drilling expansion.
“We appeal to the governor like he’s this separate thing, but he’s everywhere. He’s in all the state agencies,” Christensen said. “There’s a link back, he has a tribal advisor, he made a speech, ‘give land back to tribal people,’ but he is also involved in oil drilling in the wetlands.”
“What we have is a situation where oil is everywhere,” Christensen said. “It’s in our neighborhoods. When we talk about urban oil drilling, it occurs in our parks, in our natural spaces.”
On Sunday, activists were especially focused on the health effects of neighborhood oil drilling. Paulo Panaligan says urban drilling is a consistent source of worry as he regularly rides his bike from his home in Cambodia Town to the beach, up to Signal Hill and back.
“When I’m on my ride, every time I see oil derricks littering the landscape—the ones that are hidden behind these elaborate offshore structures that we see here,” he said, gesturing to the THUMS oil islands. “Every time I’m worried about the toxic exhaust and how it effects our community.”
Panaligan says he’s spoken with the City Council and testified at the State Lands Commission to voice his concerns.
“These active wells in our community, they’re a ticking time bomb,” said Panaligan, adding that the city has upwards of 2,700 active wells. “I don’t want to have to think about potentially getting cancer just by spending time outside.”
The event was part of many “End Dependence Day” protests happening during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. More information here.