Nguyen, Ngoc


Ngoc worked as an environment reporter for the Sacramento Bee. She was also editor of NHA Magazine, a national bilingual Vietnamese American publication in California. She has reported for Pacifica Radio since 2001, from South Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

Fracking Impact On Water Worries Californians


By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Earlier this year, the oil company Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) blasted water and chemicals more than one and half miles into the earth to force oil embedded in a sandstone formation to gush to the surface.

The process – known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – has been debated in many U.S. communities where oil and gas deposits have been identified in recent years. But PXP wasn’t fracking in the much-touted Marcellus Shale on the East Coast, where much of the controversy over fracking has centered. It was fracking two test wells in urban Los Angeles, where 300,000 people live within a three-mile radius.

The drilling was done less than a year after community and environmental groups reached a settlement with PXP, after complaining for years about pollution from the site.

Dirty Crude Spells Dirty Air in California

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

California’s long-running campaign to reduce air pollution has indirectly helped create a new problem: its oil refineries now produce more greenhouse gas emissions than refineries anywhere else in the country.

On average, California refineries emit 19 to 33 percent more greenhouse gases per barrel of crude oil when stacked up against comparable gas-producing regions in the United States, according to a recent study commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report analyzed national and California-specific refinery data and combined it with data gathered by author Greg Karras, who has been studying and writing about refinery operations since 1989.

Your Toxic Couch: New California Legislation Will Address Chemicals in Flame Retardants Found in Furniture

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Where there’s smoke – fire is still likely after California’s out-dated 12-second rule. And toxic flame retardants in your bed or couch may harm your family anyhow.

Those worrisome factors are behind a bill introduced Friday by California Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, seeking to change the state’s fire-safety testing standards for furniture.

Currently, furniture makers have to use stuffing and foams treated with flame retardants to meet California’s current rule. Under an obscure state law known as Technical Bulletin 117, furniture must withstand being ignited by on open flame for 12 seconds, even though fire-safety experts have determined that even a smoldering cigarette taking more than 12 ticks of the clock can set furniture ablaze.

BP Exits California

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

As political maneuvering continues over the fate of the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, one of the world's largest energy companies -- BP -- is already signaling the direction it plans to take: it's positioning itself to tap the burgeoning supply of Canadian tar sands oil.

BP announced it will divest from its oil refineries on the Southern West Coast -- in Carson, Calif. -- and Texas City, TX, and expand its operations in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest -- a move that would halve the company's U.S. refining capacity.

David Hackett of Stillwater Associates, an energy consulting firm based in Irvine, Calif., called the energy giant’s exit from California “a big deal.”

California Investigates Skin-Lighteners for Dangerous Mercury

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

There could be a dark side to skin-lightening creams often found in stores that cater to ethnic communities.

Starting next week, California health officials will collect and test a sampling of skin-lightening products in the Bay Area for possible mercury contamination. Health officials launched the investigation in response to a spate of mercury poisoning cases linked to the tainted face creams that are made outside the United States.

A handful of cases emerged in the mid ‘90s, but it was a 2010 case involving a 39-year-old Latina and her family in Alameda County that spurred the state to action.

Coordinators of a health study found the East Bay resident with dangerously-high mercury levels, and notified state health officials.

Southern California Edison, Tribes Fight Over Revenues from Shuttered Coal Power Plant

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

The Mohave coal-fired power plant in Laughlin, Nevada shut down in 2005, but it’s still generating millions of dollars in revenue for its majority owner Southern California Edison. A fight is currently underway in California over who should benefit from those revenues – anyone other than Southern California ratepayers -- and how those proceeds should be distributed.

Locked in the fight -- which has been winding through the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the last five years -- are the utility, the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations.

“This is a first of its kind [case] in the country and whenever there is a precedent set, it’s worth a lot more than the money,” said Andy Bessler, southwest field organizer with the Sierra Club based in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Tar Sands Oil Producers Eye California

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

The Obama Administration’s recent decision to delay the approval process for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has shifted attention to alternate routes for bringing a glut of tar sands oil in Canada to refineries and ports abroad.

Last week, Canadian firms bought up thousands of miles of existing pipeline in the U.S. Midwest, intending to reverse oil flows southward to Gulf Coast refineries – a “workaround” that would get oil flowing in the right direction, but still not enough to accommodate the volume of crude being produced.

A second – lesser known -- alternative involves piping tar sands oil westward across Canada to Vancouver, where it would reach West Coast refineries by tanker. California, which up until now has remained out of the fray in the fight over tar sands oil, would be key to such a northern pacific route.

Study Maps Pollution Hotspots in CA's San Joaquin Valley

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

It’s well known that California’s San Joaquin Valley has some of the worst air quality in the nation. A new study finds that the impacts of pollution are not felt uniformly across the region, but instead are clustered in urban centers and isolated rural towns.

Researchers at UC Davis used public records to map pollution sources such as hazardous waste facilities, refineries and areas under intense pesticide applications, and they overlay that data with demographic information, including poverty level, education, race/ethnicity and age.

Movement Brewing to Divest Money From Big Banks

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Jenny Do started a pro bono foreclosure clinic at her law firm in 2009 after she noticed that many of her clients filing workers’ compensation claims were also facing housing troubles.

“I started to look into foreclosure procedures, and realized they were seriously unjust,” said Do, an attorney with Efficio Law Group based in San Jose, California. “I stepped in and volunteered to do what I could to help.”

But for the most part, Do’s efforts were futile. In some cases, homeowners who worked out a trial loan modification with their bank were told they didn’t qualify for a permanent one. Other homeowners even had the sheriff show up at their house without warning and were told they had 15 minutes to leave. In one case, Do says, a client’s bank promised not to sell their house within 30 days, but did so anyway.

Banned Pesticide Use Remains High in CA Strawberry Fields

By Ngoc Nguyen

In some of California’s top strawberry-growing counties, levels of banned methyl bromide remain nearly as high as they were a decade ago, despite a mandated phaseout, according to an analysis by New America Media.

The fumigant was supposed to have been phased out completely by 2005, under a global pact to halt the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer. But in 2009, the latest year for which data is available, more than 5 million pounds of the pesticide were still in use, down just 50 percent from 2000.

A limited amount of methyl bromide is allowed for use in instances where no alternative exists, through a “critical use exemption,” determined by treaty members in a three-year process and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Strawberry growers in California are among the groups that can apply for an exemption.