Environmental Justice in Arlington, Texas

This edition of Green Gazette includes updates on fracking site reviews in Texas, seed saving, and more.

| December 2020/January 2021

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Environmental Justice in Arlington, Texas

After recent racial justice uprisings across the United States, legislative leaders have been pressured to address the racism built into their locales’ actions and infrastructures — and for Arlington, Texas, that meant examining the effect a fracking well would have on the community surrounding it, and ultimately rejecting its drilling.

Nationwide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, fossil fuel projects are more likely to be built near communities where people of color, specifically Black people, and people in poverty live. That proximity means those communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution — and thus by respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COVID-19. This environmental racism holds true in Arlington, where French energy company Total was planning to drill a fracking well near a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood, where residents experience high rates of poverty, childhood asthma, and now COVID-19.

Given that pandemic discrepancy, and after their constituents demonstrated against police violence and racial injustice, Arlington City Council passed a resolution in June affirming its commitment to equity for “residents of all racial, ethnic, and national origins in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledging the devastating impact on seniors and members of the African-American and Hispanic communities.”



Its constituents then put that commitment to the test. Liveable Arlington, a nonprofit fighting the drilling and expansion of fracking sites in Arlington since 2015, had been working since early 2020 to educate the community on the new Total fracking site, which would be situated close to homes and a preschool. The nonprofit connected with organizers in the neighborhood near the site, tabled at the preschool, went door to door, spoke to worshippers at a nearby Catholic church, and distributed materials in English and Spanish. Through these efforts, members from the nonprofit gained a sense of how the well would impact the nearby community — and how the people who lived there were opposed to its drilling.

Ranjana Bhandari, founder and board chair of Liveable Arlington, says any well drilled more than 600 feet away from a school, home, or daycare, as this well would’ve been, typically doesn’t require the city council to give the go-ahead. Plus, a Texas state law prohibits cities from regulating oil and gas industries. But in this case, Arlington’s recent resolution to address racial equity gave concerned community members some leverage, and the council voted to reject the well.



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