For Immediate Release - November 2nd, 2020

GEORGE GASC脫N’S PROPOSED INITIATIVES TO ENHANCE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE


Nov 02, 2020

GEORGE GASC脫N’S PROPOSED INITIATIVES TO ENHANCE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

OVERVIEW

Protecting our environment is a global crisis that requires action at every level.聽 Our communities, and particularly our communities of color, are suffering from the worsening impacts of climate change and presence of environmental hazards.聽 Those who unlawfully harm our environment should be held accountable for their actions and ill-gotten gains should be returned to the communities that have been harmed.

Instead of local authorities playing a leadership role we鈥檝e seen the United States Attorney step in repeatedly to address environmental hazards created by corporate polluters. And in the few cases brought by the Los Angeles District Attorney, her priorities are demonstrably misplaced.聽 For example, SoCal Gas was charged with 4 misdemeanor counts in the largest known release of climate-changing methane in U.S. history. The leak caused about 8,000 families to leave their homes for months. Many displaced residents complained of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea. Despite the immense harm caused, the DAs office allowed SoCal Gas to plead to one count (the lowest count) and did not pursue restitution for the victims. 聽By contrast, a man who dine-and-dashed plead guilty to multiple misdemeanors, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and paid restitution to victims.聽 The injustice and indifference for these victims and LA鈥檚 environment could not be more clearly illustrated.

We must do so much more to protect our environment and serve impacted communities. As San Francisco DA, I vigorously fought to hold companies accountable for polluting communities with oil and hazardous waste. I will fight with that same vigor for the community my family first immigrated to in 1967, and I will ensure that resources are diverted back to communities that have been impacted by these actions鈥損articularly communities of color.

KEY INITIATIVES

  1. Hold Oil & Gas Accountable for Climate Change
  2. Stop Corporate Pollution in our Communities
  3. Ensure Equal Access to a Safer Environment

 

  1. Hold Oil & Gas Accountable for Climate Change

We face an increasingly urgent crisis due to climate change.聽 Around the world, we see rising sea levels, declining freshwater supplies, reduced agricultural yields, and disappearing ecosystems.聽 In Los Angeles, we feel the impacts of prolonged droughts and increasingly severe wildfires.

Experts agree that this crisis was caused by human emissions and activities.[1]聽 In particular, oil and gas companies have driven climate change by promoting fossil fuels even though these companies have known about the hazardous impact of extracting and using fossil fuels.[2] Yet, these oil and gas companies have been held largely unaccountable for their contributions to climate change.聽 Indeed, under the Trump Administration the Environmental Protection Agency has done more to accommodate oil and gas than hold them accountable.聽 Those shortcomings should have been met with strong action here at the local level.聽 To the detriment of the county鈥檚 environmental health, they were not.

Local prosecutors must hold oil and gas accountable for their ongoing actions to fuel climate change.聽 Oakland and San Francisco have been fighting this fight, filing a lawsuit in 2017 arguing that energy companies, 鈥溾榩roduction and promotion of massive quantities of fossil fuels鈥 caused or contributed to 鈥榞lobal warming-induced sea level rise,鈥 leading to . . . impacts on the Cities鈥 wastewater treatment systems, and interference with stormwater infrastructure, among other injuries.鈥[3]聽 Los Angeles, however, has been conspicuously absent from this movement.

As District Attorney I would join the fight to hold oil and gas companies accountable for the climate crisis they fueled.聽 As reparation for their role in causing this crisis, I would demand that these oil and gas companies fund a climate change adaption program for Los Angeles County.聽 The climate change adaption program would fund a range of projects that can help offset the current effects of climate change, particularly for the most impacted communities.

  1. Prosecute Environmental Crimes in our Communities

Our communities face a variety of environmental hazards鈥攆rom the widespread use of lead paint in California homes to the illegal disposal of hazardous waste in our communities. These hazards present a danger to public health, and local prosecutors can use state nuisance, hazardous waste, and consumer protection laws to deter these public health threats.

As San Francisco鈥檚 District Attorney, I cracked down on corporate and individual polluters. For example, I won a $16 million settlement from California Walgreens after more than 600 stores had dumped hazardous medical waste in communities throughout the state. I would bring this same approach to the LA District Attorney鈥檚 Office. I would prosecute companies that dispose of hazardous waste in our communities and abate public health hazards under state and local nuisance laws.

  1. Ensure Equal Access to a Safer Environment

Environmental hazards disproportionately impact communities of color in Los Angeles.聽 Because of a history of racial segregation and resource deprivation,[4] communities of color are more likely to be exposed to polluted air[5] and hazardous waste.[6]聽 In Los Angeles County, 1.2 million people live less than two miles from hazardous waste facilities; 91% of those people are nonwhite.[7]聽 Climate justice is inextricably linked to racial justice.

As District Attorney, I will make sure that the fight for climate justice does not leave communities of color behind. I will make sure to collaborate with local leaders and activists to ensure that equity is at the center of all our climate justice initiatives. And I will ensure that any settlements, consent decrees, or judgments relating to environmental issues in communities of color will include affirmative programs that will provide resources for these communities to build a safer and cleaner environment.

[1] See Samantha Harrington, Causes of Global Warming: How Scientists Know that Humans Are Responsible, Yale Climate Connections, Mar. 27, 2020, https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/03/causes-of-global-warming/.

[2] See e.g., Justin Worland, The Reason Fossil Fuel Companies Are Finally Reckoning with Climate Change, Time, Jan. 16, 2020, https://time.com/5766188/shell-oil-companies-fossil-fuels-climate-change/.

[3] City of Oakland v. BP, No. 18-16663 at 10 (9th Cir. May 26, 2020).

[4] See generally Comm. for Greater LA et al., No Going Back: Policies for an Equitable and Inclusive Los Angeles (Sept. 2020), https://nogoingback.la/report/.

[5] See Union for Concerned Scientists, Inequitable Exposure to Air Pollution from Vehicles in California: Who Bears the Burden? (2019), https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/02/cv-air-pollution-CA-web.pdf.

[6] Janet Wilson, California Has Largest Number of Minorities Near Hazardous Waste, L.A. Times (Apr. 12, 2007), https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-apr-12-me-toxic12-story.html.

[7] Id.