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Press Release: San Bernardino Families Celebrate Successful Advocacy For Safer Natural Gas Infrastructure 

  • Community spent two decades advocating for removal of dangerous chemicals near homes and schools

  • Omnitrans replaced more than 60 thousand gallons of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage tanks with safer underground pipeline

San Bernardino, Calif. — November 29, 2017 — Yesterday, residents in the Westside community of San Bernardino celebrated their victory in compelling Omnitrans to replace dangerous natural gas storage tanks near homes and schools with a safer gas pipeline system. The victory comes after more than two decades of community demand for Omnitrans to use a safer system or move the often-leaking tanks of explosive gas to a location that does not put families in harm’s way.

“Maybe Omnitrans assumed that our lower-income community of color, which often lacks resources, didn’t have the power to stand up to a facility that put our children’s lives at risk,” says Ada Trujillo, a homeowner in Westside San Bernardino. “They assumed wrong. We made our voices heard until our kids were safe again. Now, thankfully, we can sleep more easily.”

Omnitrans, a transit operator in San Bernardino County, experienced community backlash after installing a natural gas facility in the middle of a residential area. For years, the transit agency stored more than 60,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and converted it to more than 20,000 gallons of compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel its bus fleet. All this took place across the street from Ruben Campos Community Center and steps away from Ramona Alessandro Elementary school and homes, leaving residents at risk of direct impact in the event of an accidental explosion.

Common gas leak problems at the facility inundated residents’ school, community center and homes with potent and disturbing odors. Still, Omnitrans often took no proactive measures to prevent future leaks at the facility. Omnitrans built its local facility before San Bernardino County instituted an ordinance outlawing facilities of the same type in residential areas, exempting Omnitrans from the regulation.

In late 2016, after more than two decades of community advocacy, protests and testimony to government officials, Omnitrans agreed to upgrade its dangerous infrastructure with a safer natural gas pipeline system. What began as advocacy initially brought forward by a small group of women has finally ended with a great victory for those affected by and involved in this battle. Two of those women, Teresa Flores-Lopez and Marilyn Alcantar, still reside in the Westside and were present during Omnitrans’ unveiling of the new underground pipeline. “All of our hard work has finally paid off. It was all worth it,” said Marilyn Alcantar. Yesterday, Omnitrans announced that it completed the upgrade and that the tanks have been removed.

“While this victory means we can all breathe a sigh of relief, we will remain persistent in assuring that Omnitrans continues to have transparency with the nearby community about the safety of its operation,” says Ericka Flores, San Bernardino resident and community organizer for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ). “Our families’ safety is too important.”

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The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) is one of the oldest and most accomplished environmental health and justice organizations in the nation, with a mission to bring people together to improve our social and natural environment. We do this by empowering diverse communities to create safer, healthier, toxic-free places to live, work, learn and play. Learn more at ccaej.org.

 

 

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