Boxer Statement at Press Conference in Los Angeles to Address Environmental Injustice Occurring in University Park
November 8, 2013
Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Press Conference in Los Angeles to Address Environmental Injustice
Occurring in University Park
November 8, 2013
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
I have met with residents of University Park about an environmental injustice they have been living with in their community. I have heard their voices, and I will do everything I can to ensure their health is being protected.
Children, families, students and other residents living near an oil and gas pumping facility that is operated by AllenCo just across the street have described horrible odors and illnesses including dizziness, headaches, respiratory ailments, and recurring nosebleeds.
When I read about these problems in the Los Angeles Times, I immediately asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect local residents and end their suffering.
Today I am announcing that EPA and other officials have started investigating the source of the illnesses that many people have experienced. While this investigation is being conducted, I call on AllenCo to suspend operations at its oil and gas pumping facility and come together with people in this community to make them safe.
According to the LA Times, University Park residents have lodged hundreds of complaints about these chemical odors, and California air pollution control officials have cited expanded urban oil and gas operations in this community for violations of state law.
EPA's officials have now visited this site, and say that they themselves experienced severe respiratory symptoms from exposure to the strong odors.
Yesterday, EPA sent me its initial response to my letter, which was delayed due to the government shutdown. This letter makes clear that EPA is taking this community's problems very seriously and will get to the bottom of this unacceptable situation. I support EPA's efforts and will work with them and state and local officials to ensure that the health and safety of this community is being protected. Today I will provide all of you with EPA's response to my letter.
According to EPA, since 2010, there have been 340 complaints about strong odors from the facility, and there have been 64 site inspections by local officials -- the most recent was in August 2013. Out of those 64 site inspections, there have been 16 notices of violations issued to the facility operators who have paid over $200,000 for penalties and actions to address those violations. Despite these efforts, the severe chemical odor problem has persisted.
This terrible situation simply cannot go on -- paying fines is not the answer. There must be immediate action so that residents will not continue to suffer dizziness, chronic fatigue, severe headaches and nose bleeds while investigations continue.
So I am calling on AllenCo to suspend operations at this facility until EPA and other public officials have completed their investigations and have taken actions to address any health threats at the site.
This is a residential community that has within its surroundings a child care center, two elementary schools, a high school, Mount St. Mary's College, and the University of Southern California (USC) is located a few blocks away from the oil facility.
The safety of our families must be the highest priority, so I expect AllenCo to do the right thing -- discontinue its operations at this facility until the experts tell us it is safe for our most vulnerable populations.