July 19, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

Videos courtesy of Elected Officials to Protect America, filmed by Alex Cornell du Houx

More than 250 frontline community members and elected officials from across California rallied in Ventura — the fastest warming county in the U.S. — to demand action from Governor Gavin Newsom on fossil fuels. The rally took place at the site of a gas compressor station that SoCalGas is planning to double in size despite problems with unplanned methane leaks and strong community opposition.

The compressor is directly across the street from an elementary school and a Boys & Girls Club. Approximately 500 people live within a quarter mile of the facility, but as many as 4,750 live within a half mile radius — close enough to be impacted by a gas explosion.

At the rally, community members spoke in front of hand-painted signs and formed a human chain, linking arms from the gate of the elementary school to the compressor site to demonstrate their close proximity. Major news cable outlets covered the event.

Residents voluntarily evacuated after natural gas was released from the compressor facility into the air over the Fourth of July weekend. 

Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava recalled SoCalGas’ response to the City’s inquiries: “They told us it was the equivalent of seven personal BBQ tanks and that there was no regulatory reporting requirement for this type of venting. But why not? Because to them, it was nothing. These happen two to four times a year.”

Ventura County is the only county in CA that has established 2,500 feet setbacks between oil wells and schools and stopped the building of a new fracked gas power plant. The people demand accountability in Ventura and have made it clear they do not want an expanded gas compressor facility.

Fossil fuels — fuel the flames of climate change thereby worsening drought and wildfires, and endange the health of vulnerable communities located near these industries.

“Southern California Gas compressor station caused me a very serious form of cancer,” said Westside Community Council Chair and Ventura resident Liz Campos. “And I don’t want any child or adult in this neighborhood to have to experience it. It’s painful. It’s hard. Children don’t need it in their future. So SoCalGas has to move to shut down.”

Hosted by the Westside Clean Air Coalition, Last Chance Alliance, Stop SoCalGas Coalition, and VISIÓN, the rally was attended by members of impacted communities working to shut down fossil fuel extraction and SoCalGas infrastructure such as the Playa del Rey Gas Storage Facility and Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, site of the largest gas blowout in U.S. history, as well as elected officials from around the state. 

“I’m here representing 300 elected officials, representing half of all Californians, who are calling for an end to oil and gas drilling and 2,500 foot setbacks for the entire state,” said Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch. “And I’m not just talking about it. In Culver City, we’re doing it. We are next to the largest urban oil field in the United States — the Inglewood Oil Field — and we are shutting it down.”

Culver City has successfully fought to phase out the production of oil on the portion of the Inglewood Oil Field that is a part of their city, in LA County.

Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, whose company has had its headquarters in Ventura for 48 years, said, “We want to stop the expansion of this site, then we want to remove the site, and finally we want to ensure there is a setback of at least 2,500 foot between fossil fuel facilities and residential areas.”

Residents staged a peaceful demonstration following the rally on Monday, July 19, passing out donuts and materials on health and safety to workers entering the site.