Pictured: Protestors marching in opposition to a planned expansion of a Southern California Gas Company gas compressor facility on N. Olive St in Ventura on July 17, 2021. Photo by Kimberly Rivers.
by Kimberly Rivers
On Saturday, July 17, over 200 people, including local officials, community organizers, parents and supporters from out of town, rallied and marched in West Ventura to raise awareness in opposition to plans by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to expand the capacity of a methane gas compressor facility on North Olive Street in Ventura.
The event began with a rally at Kellogg Park and a statement honoring the history of the land and the Indigenous people being pushed off of it, followed by a blessing from Julie Tumamait-Stenslie.
“This site does not belong here,” said Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava, speaking during the rally and referring to the gas compressor facility being so close to residents and a school. She told those gathered that the city had recently received a written response from SoCalGas regarding the July 2 “venting” of methane gas. She said the city was told “this venting was part of the safety system” at the facility and that it “worked as intended.” According to SoCalGas, the amount of methane gas released was akin to the amount of propane in seven barbecue-sized propane canisters. Rubalcava said no one was notified because there are no reporting requirements when SoCalGas has to vent gas.
Rubalcava explained the city was told that these events generally occur up to four times a year, and the next most recent event was in January, when about 60 barbecue canisters worth of methane gas were vented. But she added that “no one knows” how often it happens or how much is released, that SoCalGas views them as “no big deal” but that the city “expects these types of answers” and will do “all we can to address this properly.”
“We need you to hear us,” said Maria Davalos, a resident of West Ventura for over 33 years, talking with the Ventura County Reporter before the event. She raised her three daughters there and they are all at universities. She said now is “my time to work for my community.” She is a founder of the organization Manos Unidos. “Our purpose is to be heard…and to [ensure] people know their rights and start exercising them.”
Davalos emphasized that they are very “concerned about the petroleum, the gas being emitted,” and the long term effect on the community.
Saying union members in the trades are being “left out of the just transition,” Rodney Cobos, a Santa Paula resident who primarily works in Los Angeles, was with a group of pipe fitters who set up a booth. Even though he said SoCalGas hasn’t committed yet to the expansion being a union job, he said “we are pushing for it.”
Carmen Ramirez, Ventura County Supervisor (Dist. 5), also spoke at the rally, saying, “Our children’s lives are in danger,” adding that the “health of everyone” is at the center of “every decision I make.”
Other speakers included Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, and Alex Fisch, the mayor of Culver City. Fisch referred to a recent ordinance Culver City passed that “used exclusionary zoning for good,” and that the city was moving forward with shutting down the “largest urban oil field in the country.”
A common thread among the speakers was a call to California Governor Gavin Newsom to take strong climate action.
After remarks at Kellogg Park, attendees marched in a loop to the gas compressor site, chanting along the way. At the facility more speakers spoke about the impacts to the community there, and also about the Aliso Canyon gas leak that impacts thousands of residents in Porter Ranch. Residents there are working to get that SoCalGas facility shut down.
The event was organized by the Westside Clean Air Coalition that includes several organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Manos Unidos, Climate First! Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG), Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), the Westside Community Council, Runners for Public Lands, BikeVentura and more.