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Fossil Fuel Setbacks Rejected By California Senate Committee

In this Thursday March 6, 2014, file photo, the sun sets beyond pumpjacks operating at the Inglewood oil fields in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.
Richard Vogel / AP
In this Thursday March 6, 2014, file photo, the sun sets beyond pumpjacks operating at the Inglewood oil fields in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.

San Diego clean air advocates lost their bid to get support for a legislative measure that would minimize the environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction near communities of color.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee voted 5-4 to reject the legislation. They then voted to reconsider.

Fossil Fuel Setbacks Rejected By California Senate Committee
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, questioned why the bill was even being considered, citing the governor’s requirement that the legislature should only be considering legislation deemed essential because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Coronavirus Has Reduced Air Pollution, But Not The Risk In Some San Diego Communities

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing more than a publicity stunt at a time when we cannot afford publicity stunts,” Hueso said.

Assembly Bill 345 would have created a new setback requirement for oil drilling and fracking near communities. There are no such sites in San Diego, but there are many in the Los Angeles basin where drilling sites are scattered throughout urban areas.

Community advocates estimate more than 5 million Californians live within one mile of a drilling site.

The bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, Albert Muratsuchi, D-Los Angeles, said opponents are fear-mongering about the bill’s impact on jobs. He said environmental justice and economic impact are not mutually exclusive.

San Diego advocates worked hard to convince Hueso to support the measure because local communities of color struggle with air pollution.

RELATED: San Diego Is Shrinking Carbon Footprint During Coronavirus Shutdown

“The families that live in his district are the same communities of color that are disproportionately being affected in L.A.,” said Vi Nguyen, a San Diego pediatrician who works in the South Bay area. “When you actually know the webs of connection to families and people, we’re all interconnected.”

Nguyen treats young patients who suffer severe asthma attacks that can be tracked to excessive pollution in their neighborhoods.

“At our clinic, we have a code room where we kind of stabilize asthmatics and we take care of a lot of asthma kids and do run nebulizers,” Nguyen said.” And the 14 of us who work at night, we know, it's busy during asthma season and we’re stabilizing those kids all the time.”

Five San Diego lawmakers backed the bill as it passed in the Assembly.