Latinos: The Dirty Energy Proposition is Not for Us

Authors: Chad M. Silva, JD — Latino Coalition for a Healthy California Since 1992, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) has been a major voice for improving and protecting the health of all Californians. As the leading voice on Latino health, LCHC has helped decision-makers throughout the state develop policies, services, and the social, economic, and environmental conditions that improve the health of Latinos. To further these efforts, LCHC has joined with the American Lung Association, the Public Health Institute, and Breathe LA in one of the latest battles for health in California – the fight to defeat the Dirty Energy Proposition. Texas oil companies are investing millions of dollars in the Dirty Energy Proposition to repeal portions of California’s health and safety codes, some of the most comprehensive in the nation. This is dangerous especially for California's Latino communities, not only because they are disproportionately located near polluting facilities, but also because many Latinos lack access to health care.

Air Quality in California and Communities of Color

California needs its strong clean air laws. Southern and Central California are home to some of the country's most polluted cities. Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Sacramento, the Hanford region, and San Diego all rank in the bottom ten as having some of the worst air quality. And the sources of much of the air pollution — power plants and refineries — are located next to residential homes in these areas. With significant communities of color, particularly Latino communities, it should be no surprise that the pollution levels from major industrial polluters are 70% higher in California's low-income communities and communities of color than in its white communities. LCHC and other advocates have been working hard to improve the environmental quality of California's working communities. Just as we were gaining ground, however, oil companies from Texas were setting the wheels in motion to repeal our existing clean air laws with the Dirty Energy Proposition. The two main backers of the Dirty Energy Proposition own Valero and Tesoro, which both have refineries that rank among the state's ten worst offenders both in emissions that harm community health and in polluting disproportionately in communities of color. These oil companies would most likely be among those to reap the largest benefits from rolling back the gains California has made in air quality and community health.

Effects of California’s Air Pollution

California cannot afford to let these companies to dictate our policies. The American Lung Association and the Air Resource Board report that California’s air pollution crisis contributes to 19,000 premature deaths, 9,400 hospitalizations, and more than 300,000 respiratory illnesses for California families each year. These snapshot figures are especially poignant for Latinos, who have disproportionately high poverty rates and less access to healthcare (25% of Latinos are uninsured as compared to only 9% of white Californians). In fact, Latinos are more likely than any other ethnic group to report our general health as fair or poor. This is why Latinos must take a stand against the Dirty Energy Proposition. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us for clean air, healthy communities, and a high quality of life. We cannot disappoint them. Please tell friends to vote “NO on Prop 23” and help to defeat the Dirty Energy Proposition in November 2010! Take action immediately!

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