Why I got on a bus at 6am to go to Sacramento

by | Oct 7, 2022

This June, I left my house at 6am on a Thursday morning to get on a bus to Sacramento.

I wasn’t going on a school trip – at my high school in Contra Costa County, summer break had started weeks earlier. I was going to a meeting of California’s top air regulators, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to tell them about my community and our dream of a future beyond oil and gas.

For hours, I waited patiently as speaker after speaker spoke representing the fossil fuel industry. When it was finally my turn to speak, I was more determined than ever to share my story.

California’s top air regulators should listen to the communities on the frontlines of pollution, not the fossil fuel industry. That’s why it felt so important for me to be in the room that day.

This is what I told them:

I’ve lived in West Contra Costa County my whole life. My parents are refugees from Laos.

They moved here to give me and my family a safer life. But it hasn’t been as safe as they thought it would be. Living near the five Bay Area refineries, I have experienced refinery flaring, explosions and dangerous pollution my whole life.

A couple of years ago, as I was leaving school, my school would not let us leave the building, and they wouldn’t tell us why. When we were finally able to leave the building, we saw smoke everywhere.

Everyone was covering their mouth and couldn’t breathe. The sky was covered with fog and smoke. We were stuck in traffic and couldn’t even see the road. I thought the air quality was going to get better when I went home, but the smoke was even worse there because I was even closer to the Phillips 66 refinery that had exploded.

I closed all the doors and windows. I was confused about what had happened. I was angry and sad, and too afraid to breathe because every time I would, I was left feeling nauseous and tired. Lucky for me, I’m young and have a strong immune system and lungs. Not everyone is so lucky.

I don’t ever want to feel like that again. I don’t want anyone else in my community to live in fear of the next explosion or flaring incident.

I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life. It is my home, my community, my family. It should be my safe space.

That’s why I got on a bus at 6am to go to Sacramento and call on California’s top air regulators to plan for a full, coordinated phaseout of fossil fuels by 2045.

We are so close. CARB’s final 20-year climate blueprint for California will be released in the coming weeks, and APEN needs your help to make sure that California’s top air regulators hear stories like mine as they plan for our future.

Please consider donating today to support APEN’s grassroots organizing for a future beyond oil.