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And the Scummy goes to…
The Torrance Refinery!!

Last Tuesday, a power outage in Torrance lead to neighbors needing to stay in their homes. Let us explain. When the power goes out, the refinery shuts down. When the refinery shuts down, it needs to let off pressure to avoid an explosion. The solution? Burn it off in a massive flaring event that fills the air with black smoke.

Are you experiencing déjà vu?

That’s probably because this isn’t the first time Torrance messed up its neighbors’ day. Here’s a quick reminder of what those nearby have had to live with recently:

to know about Big Oil

1. Fracking and water

Hydraulic fracturing is a water-intensive business, yet much of the United States' fracking activity takes place in areas that are suffering from high or extremely high water stress. According to a new interactive map from Ceres, about 57 percent of wells fracked in the last five years are in these highly stressed regions, including basins in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and California.

2. Breast Cancer Action Demands Agricultural Companies Stop Selling Pink Ribbon Citrus While Irrigating Food Crops With Oil Wastewater

Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), the watchdog for the breast cancer movement, expressed outrage over California agribusinesses using oil wastewater to irrigate food crops while putting pink ribbons on their products. BCAction’s 2016 Think Before You Pink Toxic Isn’t Tasty campaign calls on citrus industry giants Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus, the producers of the popular Halos® mandarins, to cease using oil wastewater to irrigate produce.

3. Porter Ranch: a year after the methane leak, questions remain

Porter Ranch may shape federal policy. A year after a leaking well near Los Angeles spewed natural gas for nearly four months and drove thousands from their homes, a White House task force is recommending dozens of safety changes for the nation’s 400 underground natural gas storage wells. The methane catastrophe is also inspiring experts to call for a holistic approach in considering Southern California’s air quality.

But residents of Porter Ranch are still wondering what the leak means for them. Criminal charges for SoCalGas Co., the utility responsible, have been settled, but lawyers for a group of residents say the plea should be tossed as many victims weren’t consulted. In the silver lining department: one realtor says the leak doesn’t seem to have affected home values.

Meanwhile, SoCalGas is waiting for final safety test results from fewer than 10 wells before it can request authority to resume injections.

4. Residents of Porter Ranch aren’t the only ones suffering from natural gas oopsies

When lightning hit a storage tank at a natural gas facility in predominantly low-income Eight Mile, Alabama, 500 gallons of the same chemical that sickened Porter Ranch residents spilled into the soil and groundwater.

But, unlike affluent, predominantly white Porter Ranch, residents in Eight Mile have been largely ignored, stuck for eight years with the stifling rotten egg stench that still hovers over the mostly African American enclave just north of the Gulf of Mexico.

5. Wins against crude-by-rail could represent a sea of change

You may remember two weeks ago, two separate proposed oil train facilities in Washington and California were roundly defeated. And this could be just the beginning. "A few years ago, oil trains were the industry's back-door approach to getting crude oil to the market. Today, communities and decision makers along the West Coast are slamming that door shut,” said Matt Krogh of Stand.

One of the projects defeated was oil giant Phillips 66’s proposal to build a rail terminal at its Santa Maria Refinery, which the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission denied after months of hearings and public protest. A column in the LA Times argues it’s enough to restore faith in public officials. The planning commission could have denied the permit months ago, but by waiting months, the Commission was able to put together a cogent argument that “simultaneously deny the project and craft conditions that will follow the project should the board of supervisors overturn our denial on an appeal.” Clever.

6. Big OIl oopsies

Two ruptures in a Shell Oil Co. pipeline in Altamont - one in September 2015 and another in May 2016 - has some saying the Office of the State Fire Marshal, charged with overseeing the pipeline, isn’t up to the job. Critics are saying it relied on Shell’s own analysis of the 2015 rupture too heavily, as it didn’t conduct its own inspection of the line following the incident.

7. Wheeling and dealing

Under pressure from shareholders to trim its multi-billion dollar debt, Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan said it will sell onshore California oil and gas assets to Sentinel Peak Resources California for up to $742 million. (You may recall Freeport-McMoRan is the same company that wanted an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act in March in order to dump oil wastewater into an aquifer in Price Canyon, located in San Luis Obispo County. The Price Canyon oil fields are included in this deal.)

8. Wait, is there an election coming up or something?

Last week, LA County Supervisor candidates for the 5th district - LA’s largest - held their final debate. Among the topics discussed? A trio of environmental concerns, including gas wells in Aliso Canyon above Porter Ranch, the odors that come from a nearby landfill, and the yet-to-be cleaned up Santa Susana Field Laboratory nestled along Chatsworth. The debate points out that environmental justice is a voting issue for some this cycle.

9. Better know a policy: Measure Z

You may have heard of Measure Z. It’s the on the ballot this November in Monterey County and it’s often talk about as though it were a ban on fracking - which may seem strange, as there is exactly zero fracking occurring in Monterey. But Measure Z would also ban water injection and new oil wells in Monterey County - which means it could start to squeeze oil production (read: Chevron) out. Find out more from this local news spot.

10. Report: Children and the elderly at risk from "dangerous and close" fracking

A report out from Environment America shows more than 650,000 K-12 students in nine states live within one mile of a fracked oil or gas well, which puts them at increased risk of health impacts from the chemicals and air pollution. The kids most at risk? West Virginia has the highest rate per capita, with 8 percent of children attending school within one mile of a fracked well, while Texas has the largest number of children attending school close to a well, at 437,000. The study also looked at other vulnerable populations, such as hospitals, day care centers, and nursing homes.
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