Preserving the Environment

What Happens When a 13-Year-Old Girl Takes on an Oil Company?

September 18, 2014
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What Happens When a 13-Year-Old Girl Takes on an Oil Company?
She's suffered from nosebleeds, stomach pains, headaches and heart trouble as a result of living near a fracking site.

Ever wonder what’s so bad about fracking?

The process — which is a nickname for hydraulic fracturing — involves a highly pressurized mix of water, chemicals and sand to release gas and oil from rock formations.

Fracking, which has caused drilling to spike across the country, is also accused of causing a variety of health and environmental problems, from creating millions of barrels of toxic waste a day to causing earthquakes, as well as polluting the air and our bodies.

Thirteen-year-old Nalleli Cobo from South Los Angeles is one of the many faces of fracking. Since 2010, she and her family have been living across the street from an AllenCo Energy Inc. facility in University Park, an urban oil-drilling site.

“The AllenCo oil site has gotten me sick,” she says in the slideshow below. “I have heart problems, I get nosebleeds frequently, I get headaches and I have stomach pain.” Her mother and grandmother (as well as others in the community) weren’t asthmatic until three years ago, around the same time the site opened. As Nalleli’s mother, Monic Uriate tells ABC7 last September, the fumes from the site were so noxious that she and her neighbors couldn’t even walk outside or open their windows.

MORE: Meet the 70-Year-Old Lone Star Who Polices Fracking Waste

The family cannot simply move away from their home: “Unfortunately this community, we don’t have the economic position to move to another place so easy,” her mother says. The Los Angeles Times writes that their neighborhood, which is close to the University of Southern California, is home to low-income housing, day-care centers and schools.

That’s why Nalleli and her family joined a community effort called People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells) to permanently shut down the wells. Brave Nalleli, at the tender age of 12, was passing out flyers, speaking at press conferences and urging local leaders to close the site.

After 260 official complaints to air quality officials from residents over four years, a lawsuit was filed against the facility by the Los Angeles city attorney. An inspection from the EPA found that AllenCo did not meet recognized industry standards and practices of the Clean Air Act to prevent accidental air releases of hazardous substances, resulting in a $99,000 fine and a temporary shutdown of the University Park facility last November.  The company agreed to spend about $700,000 to make improvements.

With any luck, the shutdown will last much longer, and Nalleli and her neighbors can continue breathing air that has noticeably improved since the temporary closure of the oil fields. The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that in February, Los Angeles became the biggest city in the country to approve a moratorium on fracking, and city leaders will soon draft an ordinance zoning fracking and other harmful extraction methods out of city limits.

In the second video below, Nalleli asks the Pope to shut down the wells, which are owned by the Catholic archdiocese of Los Angles. (The English version starts at the 2-minute mark.)

DON’T MISS: This Drilling Practice Is Controversial. But Now, New York Towns Can Say “Get the Frack Out”

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