A few months ago, the two of us joined California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom at the Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington to show her places where oil wells are poisonously close to where children play, learn and live. Then late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom heeded the demands of frontline residents when he stood at this same site andannounced a plantoprevent new oil drilling operationswithin 3,200 feet of homes, schools, playgrounds and hospitals.
That draft regulation is a huge step for Californias future away from toxic fossil fuels. But the fights not over.
Neighborhood drilling is a problem that plagues millions of California residents who aredisproportionately Black, Latinx, Asian immigrant, Indigenous and low-income. And Los Angeles continues to be home to one of thelargest urban oil fields in the country.
Newsoms plan is crucial, but it leaves some important gaps to resolve. This draft regulation would prevent onlyfutureoil wells within 3,200 feet of California residents, with no such assurance for the people living near tens of thousands ofexistingwells. Communities like Wilmington will continue to face the impacts of dangerous drilling if regulators and elected officials dont step up and strengthen this health rule. We need stronger action to curb toxic pollution from existing wells and, ultimately, to phase out fossil fuel extraction across the state.
Because the truth is: No community should be treated as a sacrifice zone. That means the governor must end neighborhood drilling everywhere.
For years, scientists and public health experts have warned that families and workers exposed to pollution from fossil fuel extraction face anincreased risk of asthma, respiratory disease,preterm births,cancerandeven dying from COVID-19. These experts say that a setback is needed to put distance between our homes and schools and toxic oil and gas extraction sites to protect from these harms. But while the science has been clear for nearly a decade, and while Colorado, North Dakota, Texas and Wyominghave already required at least some setback, our states public policy has lagged behind.
Even getting to this moment was not easy. It took 40,000 public comments; dedication from community residents, leaders and climate activists; overwhelming public support demonstrated bymultiple polls;two legislative attemptsin Sacramento narrowly defeated by oil profiteers; major decisions inthe city and county of Los Angeles to begin phasing out oil drilling; years of engagement with regulators; many toxic tours; and decades of cancer, asthma and neurological diseases endured by frontline communities.
Having arrived at this draft regulation, which isopen for public commentuntil Dec. 21, the Newsom administration must champion the strongest possible outcome. That means not only resisting attempts by the oil and gas industry to weaken the 3,200-foot buffer zone requirement for new wells, but also expanding the proposed rule to eliminate existing wells. We know oil and gas executives will fight to weaken this rule with scare tactics and misinformation. Thats why the administration needs to remain steadfast in protecting communities from these dangers.
This is an opportunity to advance climate, environmental and economic justice. As our state moves beyond oil, we must alsosupport communities and workersin the transition by investing in safety net programs, job training and good union jobs that make communities and workers whole. Putting in place essential public health and safety protections for all Californians is the only way forward to a healthier, greener and more equitable future.