Wilmington residents march to refinery in Prop. 23 protest
A rally urging residents to vote no on Proposition 23 drew a crowd of about 100 to a Wilmington park late Thursday afternoon, ending in a protest march to a nearby refinery.
The Nov. 2 state ballot measure would suspend California's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act - Assembly Bill 32 - until unemployment rates fall to 5.5 percent or lower. Currently, California's unemployment rate stands at 12.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Opponents of Proposition 23 say suspending the act, designed to bring the state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, would cost too much in human health.
"The oil wells are getting richer, but what about us? We're dying," said Mary Cervantes, 57, a lifelong Wilmington resident who says she now has stage-4 liver cancer, a disease she believes is due to living near the area's refineries.
"I'm here so people can see what the refineries are doing to us," she said. "I'm fighting for my family, I'm fighting for my kids, for my grandchildren and I'm fighting for my neighbors."
Supporters of Proposition 23 argue that the global warming act will cause energy bills to rise at a time when unemployment levels are higher than they've been in decades.
Both sides are spending millions of dollars on the campaign that was launched by two Texas oil companies with refineries in California, Valero and Tesoro.
Opponents said pollution-creating jobs may be lost with AB 32, but many more green jobs will be created by allowing the tough emissions standards to stand.
Suspending the measure until unemployment rates dip to 5.5 percent will essentially kill it, said state Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Carson.
"If Proposition 23 passes, AB 32 will be put on hiatus forever," he said, adding that unemployment has only been in the 5 percent range three times in the last 40 years and then only for short periods.
"Yes, maybe some jobs that create pollution will be lost," he said. "But they will be replaced by double and triple the number of green jobs."
Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel called Proposition 23 "a disaster" and referred to it as "the oil barons' initiative."
"This initiative would be an economic and environmental disaster," she told the crowd. "We need to do everything in our power to stop it."
After the rally, the crowd marched to Pacific Coast Highway for an extended protest outside the Tesoro refinery.