Sierra Club Productions
Sierra Club Chronicles
Episode 5: Breathless in LA
Watch the full episode below:
About this Episode
The Port of Los Angeles is one of the biggest and busiest ports in the United States, not to mention, that it is surrounded by numerous oil fields and with that comes a toxic price to the surrounding residents.
The city of Wilmington, CA — a predominately Latino community — bears the burden of industrial blight, pollution, and the health hazards caused not only by the oil refineries but the growing goods movement industry in Los Angeles where over 40% of the goods imported to the US arrive everyday. With all this international trade comes a tremendous amount of air pollution from the ships, trains and trucks that move goods from the harbor to cities and towns across America.
Wilmington residents like Cecilia Mora and Raul Orasco talk about how their families have been plagued with chronic respiratory problems. Fellow resident and activist Jesse Marquez, founder of Wilmington Coalition for a Safe Environment, and co-chair of Sierra Club Harbor Vision Task Force is fighting to protect his community from the excessive pollution of and around the port.
Most recently, Jesse talks about the oil refinery flares that blackened the skies of Wilmington on September 12, 2005. Alarming local news coverage fills in the details, warning local residents to stay indoors. He and a group of volunteers went door to door asking residents where they were on Sept 12, 2005 and if they experienced any ill health effects. The refineries, 16-story cranes, and rusty abandoned container lots all loom over local backyards.
Jesse went to the new Harbor commissioners, the AQMD, and the Harbor Vision Task Force urging them to consider the undue burden the port places on the people of his community. He presents his "Port Communities Bill of Rights" at each meeting, a document that demands equitable treatment and mitigation for the people of port communities around the world and he wants to make a difference.
Jesse says that today there are many active members of his coalition and he outlines the victories the group has spearheaded over the past several years, including a $60 million settlement from the port of LA and an agreement to improvements including installing equipment so that ships docking at the a new terminal could plug into onshore electric power and turn off their diesel engines.
But there is more work to be done...