Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Working Families for a Healthy California Organizing Neighborhoods To Keep People Safe From Toxic Oil Drilling

For Immediate Release:
March 21, 2023

Contact: Gissela Chavez, 424-488-6477,

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, environmental justice and health organizations whose members live within 3,200 feet of oil drilling in their neighborhoods, announced they are escalating their efforts to defeat Big Oil’s relentless efforts to poison communities of color and low-income communities.

For decades these organizations have taken on Big Oil from neighborhood to neighborhood while advocating to legislators to mount a statewide campaign and put into law SB 1137 to protect the health of children and families who live with oil drilling just feet from their homes.

Their new political action committee, Working Families for a Healthy California, (www.endneighborhood is directed by a subset of leaders from and fully coordinated with the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California ( that is spearheading the statewide effort to “Keep The Law” California passed in 2020 (SB 1137) that requires 3,200 feet health and safety buffer zones between toxic oil drilling and neighborhoods, schools and hospitals and will keep new wells from being built in these areas. 

This new effort will allow nonprofit frontline environmental justice organizations and leaders to lead overall campaign efforts in the same ways they won historic statewide protections for all Californians. They will organize frontline communities, talk neighbor to neighbor and center firsthand accounts of health and community emergencies caused by dangerous oil drilling. They  will continue leading the overall campaign effort while also fully engaging their organizations in defending their own communities from the over $53 Million political referendum attack coming from Big Oil and their dark money allies.

“No matter the cost, Big Oil is trying to overturn California law and keep their toxic oil drilling next to California schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods – regardless of the cost of their pollution to public health,” said Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-LA). “We won’t let them continue their deception because we know first-hand the devastating impacts of oil drilling next-door to where people live, particularly for the elderly, people of child bearing age and children. That’s why we’re keeping all options on the table to get the truth out about protecting Californians from Big Oil’s greed and underhanded multi-million dollar campaign of toxic deception.”

Living near an oil well increases the risk of asthma, birth defects, high-risk pregnancies, respiratory illnesses and cancer. In 2015 the California Council on Science and Technology recommended a science-based setback of 3,200 feet to protect public health. 

“Youth and working families in Wilmington, and in frontline communities across California, have the right to breathe clean air and live in safe neighborhoods free from the constant health harms caused by oil drilling such as respiratory infections, asthma, reduced lung function, and childhood leukemia,” said Darryl Molina-Sarmiento, Executive Director of Communities for a Better Environment. “In the Legislature, our communities fought for health and safety protective measures and we’ll do it again at the ballot box when Californians vote to KEEP THE LAW to finally put an end to Big Oil’s toxic neighborhood oil drilling.”

Today, 2.7 million Californians are exposed to toxic emissions from oil drilling. Oil companies drill in low-income communities and communities of color, who are forced to bear the disproportionate harm of neighborhood drilling. All Californians deserve to breathe clean air and drink clean water. 

“For more than a decade now, frontline communities from across the state, a majority of whom are low-income and non-white, have tirelessly worked to ensure that our communities stop being hostages to the fossil fuel industry,” said Juan Flores, Organizing Director with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “Our communities deserve a brighter and healthier future. We have waited too long already. Currently, over 100,000 Kern County residents wake up every morning to an oil pump in or near their backyard or their children’s playgrounds at school, and they are ready to hold Big Oil accountable. We can’t continue to allow fossil fuel executives to endanger our communities who live, work, and go to school with the toxic fumes, spills, spews, and leaks from well-sites in our neighborhoods. This commonsense public health measure will help protect those of us who are the most impacted by Big Oil’s pollution daily.”

“We are stepping up to save our community – to protect both our present and our future. Big Oil is the villain in this story, spending money that they have gleaned from us at the expense of our community’s water, air and even the gardens we hope to plant and play in. The health and well-being of Black women and girls has continually been sacrificed to the greed of Big Oil – but no more”, said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director, Black Women for Wellness.At BWW, we fight for the right to thrive in our neighborhoods free from the harmful effects of toxic oil drilling, and through this coalition, we are weaving together a powerful web of community leaders, activists, organizations and friends to create better realities for our future – a future where our community members, who live near the largest urban oil field in the entire country, can breathe clean air and allow their kids to play in safe soil. Together we are winning, and together we will defend our victories and keep moving forward.”

More than half a million Californian children live and learn within 3200 feet of oil and gas operations. Nobody should have to live, work or play steps away from toxic oil and gas drilling.

“In the face of Big Oil’s deceptive tactics and deep pockets, it’s clear that our communities’ health and safety are under threat. Passing the law to require health and safety buffer zones feet between toxic oil drilling and neighborhoods and to keep new wells out of communities was a landmark achievement, a testament to the tireless efforts of environmental justice organizations and community advocates who fought to secure protections for our neighborhoods,” says Mabel Tsang, Political Director of CEJA. “Now, it’s more important than ever to stand together and defend our hard-won victories. We refuse to allow corporate interests to prioritize profits over the well-being of our communities. Our coalition is committed to protecting our families and ensuring a healthier, safer future for all.”

“Big Oil’s relentless campaign to repeal the law that protects our communities from toxic oil drilling threatens the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors,” says Vivian Huang, Co-Executive Director of APEN Action. “We will not allow corporate interests to undermine the protections we fought so hard for. Every Californian deserves to breathe clean air, so it’s time to stand firm and defend our hard-won victories.”

Fossil fuel billionaires must no longer be able to poison communities for profit. Join Working Families for a Healthy California as they fight to build a safe and healthy future for Californians and vote to keep the law (SB 1137) in November.

For more information about our initiative, please visit our website at: 


# # #