Oxnard fights back against pollution

Oxnard has long borne more than its share of industrial pollution. While most coastal cities have traditionally kept their coast pristine for residents and tourists, this city’s beaches are marred by power plants and the toxic remnants of the old Halaco plant, now a Superfund site.

So it is no wonder that this community has risen up twice in the last few months to successfully demand an end to oilfield expansion. It is also not surprising that last year residents stopped a new power plant from being built on the beach — and won. Recently the Port of Hueneme agreed to do a full Environmental Impact Report on a planned expansion, in part due to resident requests.

Local governments are now more aware of environmental justice issues. According to Communities for a Better Environment, low-income communities of color are at higher risk for asthma, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer, and birth defects. And those same communities tend to be stressed by poverty, unemployment, and inadequate access to health care or healthful food choices.

Senate Bill 1000, passed in 2016, mandated that cities and counties lessen the impact of pollution on these neighborhoods.

It is in this context, and with strong grassroots help, that CFROG and its partner organization Food & Water Watch worked to place a moratorium on new cyclic steam oil drilling in the tar sands of the Oxnard Plain on April 23 and helped to stop the expansion of another oilfield nearby on July 23. These actions taken by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors were an unprecedented and welcome move to protect the people of Oxnard.

Low-income communities surround Oxnard's oil fields. In the July 23 action, Supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Kelly Long dissenting, to have staff draft a resolution to deny the expansion of the Cabrillo Oil Field. Some residents of the Oxnard Pacific Mobile Estates are within 1,660 feet of drilling, and are surrounded by pesticide use in the neighboring fields AND breathe the diesel exhaust from the busy truck route on Highway 1.

When we contacted these residents to let them know of the impending new oil wells in their back yard, they told us that nobody listens to them.

We are happy to report that this time somebody did.