Delta Airlines Jet Fuel Dump and Environmental Racism

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

On January 15, 2020, a Delta Airline pilot dumped airplane fuel that landed across six schools which consisted primarily of low-income Latinx communities near the Cudahy in Los Angeles County.  Although the pilot was undertaking an emergency landing, he admitted that dumping the fuel was unnecessary. As Daniel Ponce reported for La Gente, this pilot’s actions can be understood as an instance of environmental racism, because Cudahy is mainly populated by  people of color, both black and brown.

The article states that protocol is for pilots to dump fuel in case of emergency above 10,000 feet. The second requirement when dumping fuel is that it must be over an unpopulated area or above the ocean. The pilot admitted that he dumped fuel even when it was unnecessary at a mere 2,000 feet above ground level. This act overwhelmingly affected low-income Latinx Cudahy school teachers, students, and residents, who, in this area, are considered to be environmentally disadvantaged. They live nearby active multiple sources of chronic pollution including oil wells and commercial truck routes. As a result, the area has had record levels of asthma hospitalizations in years past. In response, Ponce reported, community members are making their voices heard about environmental injustices that affect low-income Latinx, black, and brown communities, in Los Angeles and around the country.

There has been some partial corporate media coverage on the Delta Airline oil dumping. Although ABC, CNN, and other corporate media reported on the events, this coverage did not mention the specific communities affected by the fuel dumping, or frame the events in terms of ongoing environmental issues that make low-income communities of color especially vulnerable to ongoing environmental health risks.

Source: Daniel Ponce. “How Communities of Color are Affected by Environmental Injustice,” La  Gente News, February 1, 2020, February 10, 2020,

Students Researchers: Jovanni Morales, Riley Reck, Daisy Rojas, Andrea Trinidad, Yanet Tobon (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)