As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, the Office of Environmental Justice, a branch of the EPA that deals with environmental issues in poor areas comprised of people of color, is slated to close completely under President Trump’s proposed EPA budget cuts. In the midst of this, it’s important to remember that it is still possible to effectively take action. In 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity teamed up with two youth groups in Los Angeles and took environmental justice into their own hands when they decided to sue the city, claiming it allowed oil companies to drill wells in residential neighborhoods.
The case was settled out of court last September, with the city creating new requirements for oil and gas companies. The group’s actions provide a small beacon of hope to other communities that they can fight against environmental injustice even if the EPA office closes:
In 2015, the Center for Biological Diversity and two local youth groups, Youth for Environmental Justice (which is affiliated with CBE) and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, sued L.A. The lawsuit claimed that Los Angeles unlawfully allowed oil companies to drill hundreds of oil wells in residential neighborhoods across the city without assessing environmental threats, and that black and Latino residents disproportionately faced health and safety risks.
As a result, officials created new procedures that oil and gas operators have to follow, including environmental impact studies, and hearings that include residents when the companies want to expand drilling sites.
“I’m really happy that the city listened,” says 16-year-old Giselle Cabrera of Youth for Environmental Justice. “But I still think the fight isn’t over.”