tv Earth Focus LINKTV January 27, 2022 9:00am-9:30am PST
announcer: on this episode of "earth focus"... we visit oil-rich communities in california's san joaquin valley and along alaska's arctic slope, where residents are asking tough questions about the consequences of fossil fuel extraction. it's been the bedrock of their economic livelihoods for decades but is now fracturing communities and threatening the planet. [camera's shutter advancing]
different announcer: "earth focus" is made possible in part by a grant from anne ray foundation, a margaret a. cargill philanthropy; the orange county community foundation; and the farvue foundation. congration:♪ ..h, victo in jesus, my savior forever, he sought me and he bought me with his redeeming blood... ♪ man: it was only 59 years ago that alaska was ratified as a state in the united states of america, and many people involved did not consider much what the original owners of the land already had and wanted to keep. may god continue to bless the inupiaq people, may god continue to bless this land, may god continue to bless the sea from which cometh all of our
abundance. and the church said... congregation: amen. man: arctic slope regional corporation is a company that's tied to the land claims that we were able to achieve in the early days. so, let's go into our boardroom. we have our table here, which is made around the traditional skin boat that we use for whaling. it's a symbol of the principles that we've taken from whaling as far as the importance of working together to achieve more for your people. the inupiaq people lived all across the arctic slope region of the state of alaska, following the migration of the animals, but the whale was the center of our culture. you had yankee whaling introduced into our waters from about 1850. as we got into contact, of
course, disease killed off a lot of our native people. yeah, it was bad. yeah, it was traumatic. we need to get over it, we need to learn from it, grow out of it, and be able to succeed. oil was discovered in 1968 in our backyard--prudhoe bay. the biggest oil discovery in north america. that was where my mom grew up. you go there now, it's a whole oil industry complex. in the late eighties, the trans-alaska pipeline was pumping about 25% of america's energy needs. two million barrels a day. that has come down to basically around 500,000 barrels a day. and the demand across america continuing to rise, of course. when oil was discovered, the federal government had to settle the land claims. we didn't want it to be a welfare bill. we had to remind congress we're a proud
people that are self-sustaining, self-reliant, and that we want to ke it that way. so, they came up with ancsa, alaska native claim settlement act, which is pretty unique. our portion was 5 million acres of land to be selected, and $22 million to start our businesses. trying to select those lands while we were being left out of the most highly potential areas, that was the challenge. it was almost like we were set up to fail. but we didn't. i guess there was some concern, wondering what a few savage
eskimos would do with millions of dollars, right? from the early days of right around '94, we were able to grow the company to about 225 million in revenue. today, we're close to 3 billion in revenue. we own two of the refineries here in alaska. we're into construction, government contracting. lately, we've been expanding into the lower 48 in order for us to grow. we have a shareholder base of about 13,000, which is the inupiaq people of the arctic slope and their descendants. our shareholders receive probably about 5,000 a year. we didn't have running water. we didn't have the clinics, the fire stations, the schools. responsible development. maximizing the benefits to our communities and our people had to be in place. president trump: it's one of the big finds in the world. oil and
gas. and as soon as i heard that, i said, "you know, i love this anwr. thiis big stuff. i love it." [crowd cheeri] so, it's great. man: kaktovik is one of 8 inupiaq villages on the north slope. it's a close-knit community. takes a lot of people working together to make sure that we have a successful whaling season and successful harvests. prior to the opening of the coastal plain of the arctic national wildlife refuge, any oil and gas development or exploration was not allowed. now that it has been opened, we just want to make sure it's done right.
i was charged by kaktovik inupiaq corporation to take charge. lobbying for the opening of the coastal plain of arctic national wildlife refuge. but we do have a number of folks who are opposed to it. woman: two years ago, city did a poll, and we were pretty much split in half. you'll have people that hate your guts because you're saying no. growing up, i wanted it, and then when i get to my age, i'm against it. the main concern is the animals, where they live. we need the baseline study for that. rexford: when you're walking, just keep an extra eye out, or make sure there's no bears around. we share this special place with them. we get a lot of refuge visitors at the polar bear viewing, and the numbers have been
increasing every year. man: i'm guiding to see polar bears, and i realize that the polar bears are in abundance here on the shore because their habitat has gone away because the world has been burning too much fossil el. it's--climate change is happening. man: well, this time of year, they should be out on the ice, eating seals. that ice is not there for them. i've seen them eating young caribou on the beach. they're gonna have to learn to adapt, i guess. we ve to learn to adapt, too. we gotta change. we have to change. rexford: folks tend to try to tie the climate change directly to the oil and gas industry. man: they say that because a lot of people are polluting the air hundreds of miles away from us. well, ice is not there no more.
but we're the ones sitting in the front row. they're in back of the ice melting away. patkota: we're seeing earlier thaws and we're seeing later freeze-ups. man: why is our land being eroded away? because there's no ice to stop the impact of the huge storms that come crashing into our land. burns: big chunks size of this building sometimes will have-- ground just break off. rexford: having it rain during the middle of the winter season. the caribou can't get through the ice to get to their food. folks were pilincaribou carcasses by the hundreds. patkota: we're reminded by our elders that the same principles that we use in whaling, you apply that same principle in everything that you do. working together, whether it's business, government, our culture. these pieces of baleen
on the higher wall here represents the 8 communities throughout the arctic slope. we formed what we call the voice of the arctic inupiaq. it basically takes all the leadership from all the organizations across the slope to go in one voice. thompson: asrc tries to present that they are the voice of the people, but they are not. it is a for-profit corration that is in joint venture with the oil industry at this moment. burns: on the western side, they all want development. they want it here in our land, because they want to preserve their own hunting grounds. we always like to represent ourself, but they represent us, but they don't live here. all the oil companies, they say they need to drill in just this little area. but then, while they're doing that, they'll say, "oh, we need a permit for this
one over here. we need a permit for that one over here." they're gonna spiderweb all over and look for that oil, and if they find it, they're gonna extract it. patkota: we as inupiaq people considered ourselves the first conservationists. but with the right balance, we believe it can be done in a way that it doesn't harm the migration of the caribou. burns: shell came in here. my question was, "if there's a earthquake, what is your earthquake plan?" the lady laughed at me, then right after they had that meeting, you had that big oil spill in e gulf of mexico. the whole community watch it. if they did that out here, we'd be screwed real bad. inglangasa: what are they gonna do if they have an oil spill? be oil everywhere. our fish, whales, seals. we won't be able to get our food.
thompson: when they talk about developing the 1002, who's gonna benefit? is there other oil available that's more easily accessible, and should we look into alternative clean ergy? rexford: life is a lot easier nowadays than it was before any of the development occurred. we have some folks still alive who have gone through starvation. they do not want to see that ever occur again in our communities. these gravel roads, the power lines, the houses that are built. pretty much every infrastructure that you see here has come from taxing the oil industry. patkota: we're being asked to keep the oil in the ground in our backyard, sacrifice our economic opportunity, to save their world? never mind what it takes to run the schools, the
power plants, the basic infrastructure that we need. thompson: ultimately, it'll probably be the investors that look at it and say, "can we make money on it, or wmake me money doing clean energy?" patkota: the environmentalists have tried to use local people, to split us apart. burns: the folks that are against development, the locals around here call them tree huggers and stuff. thompson: the people who are called tree huggers, i include myself in that. we have a care for the environment. you could ask local native politicians, is this compatible with your traditional beliefs, to put product into the atmosphere that's harmful to the animals or the people? rexford: we live here and we have to deal with these issues that come before us. we're stuck in the middle of two sides--oil and gas development and environmental protection. woman: a debate over the moral, cultural, and economic consequences of oil extraction
is also underway in both arvin and taft, california, just a few hours north of los angeles. [man sighs] man 2: mayor, pleasure to meet you again, sir. [man 1 laughs] long time no see. man 2: yeah, no kidding. man 1: grab a seat here. once again, welcome to the city of taft. glad to have you over here. if people truly understand what the petrochemical industry does, what petroleum does for them, day to day on every single day, it would just absolutely blow up some of the misconceptions. simply take a look around. if you're sitting in your living room and you're comfortable where you are, what are you wearing? are you wearing just wool and cotton? are you wearing polyesters and nylons and rayon?
the oil and gas industry and the petrochemical industry create so many benefits, and all of these things that impact quality of life are things that people are taking for granted. man 2: they are essentially putting their heads in the sand and saying, "we're gonna drill, baby, drill until we can't drill no more, either by an act of god or because an act of government, and i think that's irresponsible. man 1: thquality ofife in the united states of america, the state of california, the globe is going to be the marriage and the efficient use of all of our available technologies, but if we learn and we're open with each other as different industries, then we can benefit across the board. and that is how we all will deliver the best quality of life generations from now. i was asked by some civic leaders if i would consider
surveying the people of the city of taft, because in government, we need business sense, and here i am. was elected to office and 've been reelected 3 times. i do this for free. i refuse to take any wages or any benefits, but i take a great deal of pride in it and i raised my family in this community. my employees live in this community. i own a crane and trucking company, and i actually began my oil field career as a roustabout, which is a very beginner in an oil field. bottom of the totem pole. and i worked my way up. taft actually began as a whistle-stop on a railroad, simply so that the railroad could deliver the consumable goods to help in the development of the burgeoning oil and gas industry, and many, many generations of people have grown up in the city of taft, not just working in the industry itself
but support from the benefits of the industry as well. we are surrounded by tens of thousands of oil and gas wells. we understand the benefits of the industry. we understand the strategic importance of the united states of america being energy-independent. we take great pride in being a part of that. kern county at one point in time was the largest oil and gas producing county in the continental united states, so, the industry itself, that is who we are. that is the legacy of this portion of san joaquin valley. man: arvin making a bit of history today, becoming one of the smallest cities to make their own local regulaons for the oil and gas industry. woman: oil and gas has kept kern county moving for decades. now arvin residents are fed up and those in the industry feel unwelcomed. wednesday night, arvin city council unanimously voted in favor of restrictions on theil and gas industry. those in support
applauded. [cheering and applause] man: yeah, so, it's a monumentous thing that we did. we passed the oil and gas ordinance, and hopefully other cities with that type of industry will follow, so, we're gonna be talking today with some neighbors on nelson court, nd then tomorrow i'm goa have a coersation with the mayor of taft about our two cities. see if we can find any common ground. my name is jose gurrola and i am the mayor of the city of arvin. we can't deny the fact that living and being next to an oil and gas operations, that it emits emissions, and that thos emissions can cause harm to health, d fossil fuel extraction and production and consumption is a big part of the pollution here in the valley and worldwide. agriculture is the base economy here in the city of arvin. now
it's primarily a hispanic community. over 95%. it is a very young city. surprisingly, over 60% of the population is under the age of 30. and , when you look at my age and you look at other yng people on the city council, you realize that we're actually very representative of the ci as a whole. all right. see you guys later. essentially, what the oil and gas ordinance that we adopted is, it creates a setback, and what that means is no new oil development can occur within 300 feet of sensitive uses--homes, schools, parks, hospitals. my position was not to stick it to oil workers or because i'm against the oil industry. it's because i want to protect th health and safety of my community. that's why i supported the ordinance, because i believe that it's imperative that we take this action for the sake of our economy, for the sake of our future. man: arvin is one step closer to imposing new regulations on oil and gas production in the city limits. this all comes after
mayor jose gurrola visited the state capitol to talk about an idea of eliminating oil and gas altogether. noerr: it hurts me to think that somehow, someway, we have drawn a line in the sand that says we're either going to contue as a societyased on newable energy and abandon all oil and gas or we will continue with oil and gas and abandon the benefits of renewable. we'd truly like to sit down and speak with him regarding his opinion, how he came by that opinion, but bthe same token, not just he but everybody he represents, everybody that elected him and everybody who lives around him, still, every day, benefit from the oil and gas industry. gurrola: so, this is nelson court. my house is over there. alma's is over there. but over here, this is all nelson court. everybody on this side of the street was evacuated, and the
oil operations that was the source of the gas leak is this operation over here. you know, you have homes right here, and then you have within a couple hundred feet, you have oil operations. man: a monitor that we place here. it's been here for about 8 months now, man. so, it was developed from the community perspective. and so, right away, you see the pump jack. just a lemon throw's away, literally, from the house, and then right behind [indistinct] on this side is the tank. we've seen this tank in past years, you know, releasing vocs into the air. and so, we monitor--monitor the 8 monitors that we have here in arvin, and we--and the story is the same. you know, the background levels in this community are sky-high. we see
fence-line oil and gas operations like this around communities like this, you know, in small, rural communities, nd so, this is one of the big issues here in arvin. gurrola: what the city and its residents here, what they're truly experiencing is-- is not the normal. in fact, it's the exception, and it's really an injustice that they're having to suffer through these environmental burdens, whether if it's air quality, water contamination. noerr: i know that my opinion of the industry has been shaped by the fact that i've been involved in it for decades successfully, and i am still here and i am still healthy and my children and my neighbors and my employees are all still healthy as well. so, decades of experience have shaped my opinion. [indistinct chatter] hey, there, buddy. woman: hi, dave. noerr: nice to see everybody. i sure am glad you could take time
out of your busy day to sit down and talk about what's going on in this world. we have very common needs, whether we live in the city of taft or the city of arvin or the state or california or anywhere else. how many people here have family members that have been involved in the industry for a while? just about everybody. woman: they don't focus on the bigger picture behind the oil, and there may be incidents where there's spills or fires, but that's not our goal. we're more focused on the pros than the cons. man: there's always gonna be trade-offs, but oil is one of the most widely used fuels that we have out there, and it's really efficient forur community and everywhere around the world that uses it. noerr: that's the reality of it. that is a fact. quality of life is important to all of us, and ignorance is not an evil thing. ignorance just means people haven't been exposed to the facts. that's
what dialogue is all about. it's not about throwing rocks or casting persions upon one's credibility. it's about a sharing of realities. oil will be a critical part of our quality of life for long after i'm dead and long after my children will be dead. we will find more of it, we'll do a better job of removing it, and we will utilize the benefits of it more efficiently every single day. gurrola: arvin is full of humble, hard-working people, and it's truly a david and goliath story when we're talking about putting health and safety first versus a legacy billion-dollar industry that's centered right here in kern county. despite of that, we were able to succeed, and the arvin story is not alone. there's communities up and down the central valley that they are suffering, and if we can succeed here in kern county, the number-two oil producing
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