The Sentinel:Taxpayers should not foot the bill for cleaner air

I am the daughter of immigrants who came to the City of Sanger, searching for the Central Valley Dream. My parents seized opportunities in the agricultural industry that helped them achieve that vision. The road there has been a tumultuous one, and I know that this is something true for many who live here.

Poverty in our Central Valley DOES NOT discriminate. Our current statewide unemployment rate of 16% compared to the Central Valley exceeding a whopping 18%. 

As painful as this is to remember, I know too well the harsh realities of living in poverty. Poverty is the one thing I can say that I hate. But, living through this painful experience has motivated me to fight for our communities with a focus on expanding job opportunities, improving access to healthcare, and making sure we receive our fair share of resources. 

In January of this year, I listened to local leaders' frustration about the inequity in receiving resources for the clean-up of abandoned and idled oil and gas wells compared to Coastal California. There are thousands of oil wells that sit unplugged and abandoned all around California, most of which are in our region. These toxic hazards are our silent neighbors. Every day they go unplugged, they release poisonous fumes that aggravate health disparities locally like Asthma, Valley Fever, and COVID. And to make things worse, Central Valley taxpayers are on the hook for paying for the clean-up with no state resources.

The social determinants of our health rely heavily on how we respond to this crisis. For all these reasons — I have sponsored SB 1012 that will create a program that will ensure taxpayers are not on the hook to pay for these clean-up costs. With bipartisan support, this bill seeks to plug abandoned wells that are not in production and allocates monies from existing special funds. In no way will it increase the gasoline cost, and it will create jobs for our region. Jobs we desperately need. More importantly, it will improve our air quality in a region that is known for having the highest rate of childhood asthma, valley fever, and COVID cases.

Click here for a published version of the Op Ed.