Communities Near Oil and Gas Operations Must Have Protection from Hazards and Have a Say in Regulating these Industries

Oil and gas operations are dirty industries that create health and safety hazards in the areas where they operate.

Health studies have shown that some of the hazards caused by proximity to oil and gas wells include:

  • Increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illness
  • More preterm births and high-risk pregnancies
  • Migraine headaches, nasal and sinus symptoms, and skin disorders.

Research demonstrates that oil and gas operations should be at least 2,500 feet from populated areas in order to protect public health.[1]

Above photo: credit Ctr for Race, Poverty and Environment and STAND,LA.

For many years, vulnerable communities have had no say in where these toxic fossil fuel operations are located. This has resulted in the current outrageous situation where oil and gas operations exist close to schools, day-care centers, hospitals, senior centers and homes, most of which are in low-income communities of color. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that a “notable hot spot in L.A. County is the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills, where drilling operations sit in close proximity to neighborhoods and ‘well pads often contain 30 or more wells within a few feet of buildings, roads and parks.’ ”[2]

AB 345 requires that at-risk communities like those in the Baldwin Hills have input into the rulemaking for nearby oil and gas operations, including requiring mandated setbacks (recommended to be at least 2,500 feet from residences and health and education facilities) to protect them from the health and safety hazards caused by these industries. 

AB 345 would also require the state Natural Resources Agency to establish an environmental justice program which would identify and address any gaps in existing programs, policies, and activities that might impede the achievement of the environmental justice goals of this bill. 

AB 345 is key to protecting the health of many low-income communities that have long suffered from adverse health problems related to their proximity to oil and gas operations.

Above photo: credit The City Project

Opponents of this bill (oil companies, some labor unions and others) argue that it will destroy jobs and financial benefits to communities, such as funding for public schools. However, the oil and gas industries jeopardize the health of the communities in which they operate, and do so without consulting the affected communities or providing protections. Children plagued by asthma and other illnesses are not likely to learn and thrive under the shadow of oil and gas wells that are poisoning their bodies. AB 345 opponents’ purported concern for the welfare of communities is therefore more than a little disingenuous. Moreover, as climate change accelerates, we know that the oil and gas industry must be required to wind down their operations in favor of affordable sources of clean energy. We cannot allow the oil/gas industry to continue polluting and poisoning our planet and the health of communities in which they operate.   

As Ingrid Brostrom, Assistant Director of The Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CPRE) states, “AB 345 protects the health of California families and children living in the shadows of oil drilling. California is only one of a handful of oil-producing states with no minimum distance between homes and schools and harmful oil and gas extraction activities. This is shameful because numerous studies link oil drilling to respiratory and reproductive harm, and even cancer. California must prioritize the health of its people over the profits of this polluting industry.” 

AB 345 passed out of the Assembly at the end of January and will now be considered by the state Senate. We stand with these affected communities, CRPE and VISION, the sponsors of this bill. 

Please contact your state Senator and urge them to vote YES on AB 345!

(Visit http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/to find your Senator.)

-Nora Privitera

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[1]See S T A N D – L.A. : Research and reports on neighborhood drilling: https://www.stand.la/research–reports.html;Long-Awaited Colorado Health Study Finds Significant Risks From Fracking; by Chase Woodruff, Westword, October 17, 2019:https://www.westword.com/news/long-awaited-colorado-health-study-finds-significant-risks-from-fracking-11516032; After a Decade of Research, here’s what Scientists Know about the Health Impacts of Fracking, by Kristina Marusic, Environmental Health News, April 15, 2019 (citing to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health): https://www.ehn.org/health-impacts-of-fracking-2634432607.html; Fracking Causes Environmental Damage and Birth Defects, New Study Shows, by Adam Wernick, Living On Earth, July 31, 2019; https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-07-31/fracking-causes-environmental-damage-and-birth-defects-new-study-shows

[2]“More than five million in state live near an oil or gas well, report says;” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2014, Tony Barboza, staff writer (citing a report by the National Resources Defense counsel