For Immediate Release, April 20, 2022

Contact:

Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 385-5746, swolf@biologicaldiversity.org
Aradhna Tripati, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA, (626) 376-1308, atripati@g.ucla.edu

Top Scientists: California Must End Neighborhood Oil Drilling, Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Stronger Action Needed to Protect Communities, Climate

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Nearly 200 scientists marked Earth Week by sending a letter today calling on the Newsom administration to immediately end neighborhood oil drilling and rapidly phase out fossil fuel production in California.

The letter is signed by 192 leading scientists, including original signatories Robert Bullard and Michael Mann, as well as California scientists Aradhna Tripati, Manuel Pastor, Bhavna Shamasunder, Mijin Cha, Rebecca Hernandez and Peter Kalmus.

While the scientists commend the Newsom administration for taking historic steps toward limiting fossil fuel production, they say stronger actions are needed to protect public health, deliver on environmental justice and prevent more of the drought, heat and deadly fire already devastating the state.

“California’s dirty oil drilling pollutes our communities, making children sick and taking lives,” said Aradhna Tripati, Ph.D., a professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Oil and gas are fueling the climate disasters that are wreaking havoc across the state. Distant phaseout goals mean more drought, deadly fires and punishing storms. Gov. Newsom must move faster to phase out the dirty fossil fuel production that jeopardizes our climate and communities.”

Today’s letter emphasizes that neighborhood oil drilling has created a public health and environmental justice crisis in the state. More than 7 million Californians, or 18% of the population, live within a mile of at least one active oil or gas well. Those living closest to drilling sites are primarily people of color, who are exposed disproportionately to health harms, including increased risk of cancer, asthma, preterm births and high-risk pregnancies.

The scientists urge the administration to end neighborhood oil drilling by promptly finalizing a strong setbacks rule that bans both new and existing oil and gas operations within, at a minimum, 3,200 feet of homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive sites. Living within that zone has been linked to harmful health consequences, including asthma, high-risk pregnancies and more severe cases of COVID-19.

“Scientists and community members agree that the consequences of neighborhood drilling are devastating, and they hit Black and Brown folks first and worst,” said Robert Bullard, Ph.D., distinguished professor and director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University. “Gov. Newsom has a chance to protect communities from toxic drilling, but he has to end the existing drilling that poisons people where they live and play every day. The governor must deliver on the environmental justice he promised.”

“Scientists are confirming what California’s frontline communities have known for decades — neighborhood oil drilling is toxic, and it needs to stop now,” said Jasmine Buenrostro of Central California Environmental Justice Network. “How much longer will the Newsom administration wait to take action? How much longer will they allow these existing well sites to keep poisoning our families?”

The letter also calls on the administration to stop permitting new fossil fuel projects and begin a rapid phaseout of existing oil and gas extraction — described in the latest U.N. climate report as “now or never” actions to maintain a livable planet. The scientists further urge the administration to reject fossil fuel industry delay tactics like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen made from fossil fuels, and carbon offsets that perpetuate fossil fuel extraction and hinder the transition to renewable energy.

“The actions California takes on fossil fuels today will decide how many people die of heat exposure, how much our sea levels rise, how many plants and animals we lose forever,” said Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science demands protecting people now, not in the scorched-Earth future when it will be too late.”

Other prominent scientist signatories on the letter include Anthony Ingraffea, Robert Howarth, Karen Holl, Kathy Tran, Kathleen McAfee, Peter Gleick, William Ripple, Mark Jacobson, Paul Ehrlich and Doreen Stabinsky.

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Photo from Inglewood Oil Field by Gary Kavanagh Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.