Standing up to Unregulated Oil Drilling in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the largest urban oil field in the country with many active wells located within low-income neighborhoods characterized by high proportions of poor or unemployed folks and high percentage of non-English speakers. LDF grantee STAND LA is significantly shifting the public debate around the hazards of oil drilling. Many low-income families are fighting against corporate interests who pollute their air and contaminate their water. Nearly 5 million Californians have been diagnosed with asthma, and the state’s poorest residents are four times as likely as the wealthiest to be hospitalized because of the chronic lung disease, according to the California Department of Public Health. STAND LA is responding to this by demanding a 1500ft buffer zone of sensitive land use and raising awareness about this critical public health and environmental justice issue.

More than half of the new and active wells are in low-income Latino and African-American neighborhoods already overburdened by environmental hazards, such as Wilmington and South Los Angeles. Residents from these neighborhoods have documented serious health problems—including nosebleeds, increased asthma, dizziness and heart palpitations—in addition to daily disruption from drilling vibrations, diesel truck traffic, and cracked sidewalks and home foundations.  In addition, oil drilling operations contribute to climate change due to leaking methane and other emissions.

Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling Los Angeles (STAND-LA) is a coalition of community-based and advocacy organizations working to prohibit urban oil drilling in close proximity to sensitive land uses and to support environmental justice (EJ) neighborhoods to restrict and shut down local drill sites by highlighting negative health, safety, and climate impacts.  STAND-LA is dedicated to winning a prohibition of future and current oil drilling within a 2,500-foot radius (or “buffer zone”) of sensitive land use.

Recently, thanks to the tireless hard work of LDF partners STAND LA and Liberty Hill Foundation, city council president Herb Wesson introduced a motion calling for a study of what it would take to shut down all oil and gas wells near homes, schools, hospitals, parks and other public places.  Wesson’s study will look at the feasibility of creating a buffer zone, or setback, around places where people live and gather. Inside the buffer zone, no oil development and production would be allowed.

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