Friday night seemed like any other for residents near Long Beach, California — until they heard what my mom later described to me as a “sonic boom.” Suddenly, family photos began crashing to the floor as her entire condo shook violently.
A 4.3-magnitude earthquake had rocked Carson, a southern suburb of Los Angeles, just a few miles away from her home around 8 pm. That magnitude of earthquake is only considered “moderate” on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale: It can cause windows to break and fully overturn unstable objects, but it’s unlikely to cause the kind of building collapse that claims lives. However, for the more than 150,000 people within two miles of this particular event’s radius,” earthquakes can cause or accelerate life-threatening environmental events, in which fossil fuel refineries emit pollutants at a pace well above their regulated levels.
The boom my mom heard was an explosion at the Los Angeles Marathon Refinery in Carson, caused by the plant losing power during the quake. For at least three hours, sun-like bright orange flames lit up the sky and could be seen as far as 25 miles away in Hollywood. The plant, which is the largest... Read more