Top

Heal the Bay Blog


Image from STAND-L.A. Facebook page

Meredith McCarthy, Operations Director at Heal the Bay, highlights the STAND-L.A. coalition and why the City of LA must take action now to protect public health and the environment, including investing in good green jobs, protecting our children’s health, buffering communities and phasing out fossil fuels.

The STAND-L.A. coalition is urging Los Angeles City Hall to take action by implementing public health protection measures, including a 2,500-foot setback between active oil wells and sensitive land uses, such as homes, schools, places of work and medical facilities. The coalition, led by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Communities for a Better Environment, seeks to phase out neighborhood drilling in order to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of oil extraction. Low-income neighborhoods are exposed to disproportionate health and safety risks due to a history of abundant drilling within close proximity to where residents live, work and go about daily life.

Heal the Bay proudly stands in solidarity with STAND-L.A. Oil extraction is simply incompatible with healthy neighborhoods, thriving oceans and a sustainable future for our planet.

We know firsthand that fighting Big Oil is a heavy lift. Years ago, Heal the Bay helped lead a coalition that defeated a slant drilling oil project under the sea in Hermosa Beach. Now, we cannot sit back satisfied that we prevented an oil rig in the ocean only to see it turn up in a neighborhood.

We joined the STAND-L.A. coalition at City Hall on Tuesday, October 15 for the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee hearing. The Committee reviewed the City’s Petroleum Administrator’s feasibility report on the proposed setbacks between oil sites and sensitive land uses. The report suggested a 600-foot setback for existing oil and gas wells and a 1,500-foot setback for new wells. Coalition members argued this doesn’t go far enough, and rightly so.

Having lived through many environmental policy campaigns—where industries claimed that our economy would collapse and jobs would be lost if we banned plastic bags, cleaned up stormwater or prevented sewage from dumping into the Bay—I expected a similar argument to justify continuing to drill. So I was not surprised as I listened to testimony at City Hall that the pressing issue of drilling in our neighborhoods, once again, was being framed as a binary debate between “good jobs” versus “healthy neighborhoods”.

The coalition argued that this foolish debate will never be won by prioritizing one issue over the other. Environmental and public health risks won’t be solved either. We can only make progress by thinking about the issue holistically – investing in good green jobs now weans us off our harmful addiction to oil. Protecting our children’s health now leads to a more equitable future. Buffering communities now builds a more resilient LA. Phasing out fossil fuels now creates new job and economic opportunities… and not to mention a more sustainable planet that’s facing increasingly severe impacts from climate change.

Time and time again, Los Angeles has made bold moves to protect public and environmental health. But, what happens when cities can’t afford to buy a healthy environment from oil drilling lease holders to protect its residents, or worse, cities choose to ignore the damage being done? This is the question that the City of LA is grappling with. Will we invest in long-term sustainability or will city leaders be tempted by temporary job gains and the promise of future revenue?

It’s important to make the connection to plastics here, too. What do plastics and fossil fuels have in common, you ask? The plastics industry uses as much oil as aviation. So when we think about oil drilling in neighborhoods, we must also think about why we are drilling there in the first place.

The more cheap energy and cheap plastic material we use, the more waste we generate and the greater the environmental costs. The search for profit has turned a blind eye to the burdens and costs of poor air and water quality that low-resourced neighborhoods must carry.

Plastics use is expected to quadruple by 2050. In 30 years, the weight of plastics is likely to outweigh that of fish in our ocean. Plastic waste is already having a profound impact on oceans and marine life. It is found inside animals throughout the ocean food chain, from mussels to sea turtles to whales, and is likely to end up in the human food chain. These are the conclusions from a new report released at Davos by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey.

Environmental costs translate directly into economic costs. We can’t afford inaction and we can’t ignore the negative impacts on our communities, from blight to toxic air.

Please take a second to call or email your City Council representative and demand good jobs AND a healthy neighborhood. Insist that our region start working toward not just a new economy, but a new generative economy. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and a 2,500-foot setback.

Follow STAND L.A. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and watch this hashtag for updates #NoDrillingWhereWereLiving.



Meredith McCarthy, our Operations Director, is going plastic-free for 46 days. Pray for her soul.

Each year my faith tradition gives me the gift of a 46-day reflection period called Lent. I think of it as a spring cleaning of the soul. The season starts today, Ash Wednesday. The ashes are a sign of repentance, humility and mortality. Through the placement of the ashes on the forehead, believers acknowledge we have failed to be agents of love. We acknowledge our sins and work towards renewal.

Fasting is also big part of Lent. Going without feasts has its roots in early Christian tradition. As a child in Chicago, I’d often have to give up candy, making it a truly miserable month. I thought about giving up my nightly glass of wine this Lent, for a moment. Nah, let’s not go crazy, I thought.

But divine inspiration came from appropriate places this year – the Creation Care teams at Holy Family in Pasadena and American Martyrs in Manhattan Beach. I had been asked by the Catholic congregations to give a talk about plastic’s impact on our oceans. The parishes are encouraging their congregants to go on a Styrofoam fast and give up single-use plastic for lent. It’s part of a larger movement taking place across many faith communities.

As Director of Operations at Heal the Bay, I have stood hundreds of times ankle deep in plastic on our beach. It’s moved me to tears at times. You can see what I discovered recently on Santa Monica beaches after the first winter storm in this video.

All this plastic waste laying siege to our shorelines doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the sad byproduct of our daily “feast” of convenience. As a working mother of two, I too often partake in this feast. I am busy and tired most of the time. Using the handy excuse of harried motherhood, I have tried to absolve myself. But my faith and my planet require more. There may be no better way to renew my relationship with Mother Earth than to take responsibility for my lifestyle and the harm it may cause.

“We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic,” Pope Francis said in Laudato Si, his major encyclical on the environment. “Our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency.”

So in order to be an agent of love, my family and I are giving up single-use plastic for the next 46 days. We have our metal sporks, plates and reusable coffee cups ready to go. I still have to  Google “how to shave legs with a safety razor,” but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned. I will be sharing my trials and tribulations. I’ll be toting a lot of reusable items for the family with me now. I think we’re going to need a bigger handbag!