| Blog Post

More reasons why California must stop oil drilling

Neighborhood oil drilling in California
Oil drilling next to an apartment in Los Angeles. Photo by Earthjustice.

Despite our reputation for climate leadership, California still produces hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day. Each day this practice continues, the state is failing millions of residents who face toxic and dangerous conditions in their communities. 

In early February in Bakersfield, an oil pipe burst in front of an elementary school, sending crude oil into the intersection where parents pick up their children. Two days later in Wilmington, nine Los Angeles firefighters were injured when a natural-gas-powered semi-truck caught fire and exploded. Two days after that, an oil derrick collapsed at an industrial site in East Long Beach and two men were hurt, one critically. 

Leaks, explosions, and accidents from oil and gas operations are so frequent across California they don’t always make the news. And that doesn’t even account for the ongoing health and climate damage caused by abandoned oil wells. A new report from the Sierra Club found that more than 40,000 unplugged oil and gas wells are sitting idle across the state, leaking methane and toxic chemicals. The 7.4 million Californians who live within a mile of active oil and gas wells, mostly lower-income communities and communities of color, have a higher risk of health problems including asthma, birth defects, and cancer. 

A California law signed by Governor Newsom in 2022, SB 1137, would have required a 3,200-foot health and safety setback from oil operations near sensitive sites like schools, hospitals, and homes. Immediately after the law passed, signature gatherers hired by the oil industry lied to the public to get a referendum on this November’s ballot, putting the law on hold. If SB 1137 had gone into effect this year, we’d start seeing a reduction in ongoing oil and gas-related health threats, along with reduced climate pollution. 

Californians will be able to vote to keep the law in November, but Governor Newsom has the power to stop dangerous drilling right now. Tell Governor Newsom to stop issuing permits for new oil and gas drilling.

This blog first appeared in The Climate Center’s bi-weekly newsletter. To keep up with the latest climate news and ways to take action for a climate-safe future, subscribe today!