Yesterday, Governor Newsom and CalGEM (California Geologic Energy Management), the state agency that regulates oil and gas production, announced a draft rule to create a 3200-foot setback from new oil and gas wells to protect frontline communities. This setback would place a health and safety buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and homes, schools, hospitals, as well as other sensitive receptors.
This draft rule is not only a signal about commitment to a greener California, but also a testament to the strength of community perseverance. The very communities that are most impacted by the harmful contaminants spewed by the oil and gas industry fought long and hard for this overdue rule.
Throughout CalGEM’s rulemaking process, many residents spoke of the horrors of living near oil and gas operations and demanded more protection for their families. We heard pleas from the countless community members who have developed or are dying of cancer as a result of oil and gas pollution in their neighborhoods. We heard emotional testimonies from residents who recounted the helplessness that is to hold their child in their arms as they turn blue from a severe asthma attack. Unfortunately, these are not isolated events and are far too common in fenceline communities.
People who live near oil and gas drilling sites are suffering from fossil fuel pollution-induced diseases. More and more studies link proximity to oil and gas wells to a number of harmful health impacts, including cancer, high risk pregnancies, asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, research is beginning to show that those who live in heavily polluted areas have a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.
More than 7.5 million Californians have been locked down within a mile of oil and gas operations. With the ongoing responses to rising cases of covid keeping people in their homes during yet another year of the pandemic, it is even more imperative to protect these communities. Fossil fuel operations have long plagued hard working low-income communities of color. Placing families and even more so children, the elderly and those sensitive to air quality at risk of developing cancer, asthma, and an array of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases, not to mention the increased susceptibility to Covid and its worst symptoms is a clear social injustice.
As low-income communities of color continue to disproportionately be affected by oil and gas operations, now is the time to take action and show our support for these protections and this regulation. And we have to be loud. The oil and gas industry has already begun it's gas-lighting campaign claiming that this rule will hurt families, that it will hurt jobs, that it will hurt the economy. But where is this same concern when their pollution causes our families health and financial hardships, where is their concern when it's time to take our families to the clinic or hospital due to their pollution, where is their concern when it's time to pay the medical bills, where is this concern when it's time to pay the funeral expenses? The oil and gas industry has never and will never care about the damages they cause to our families, our homes. They only care about losing their profits.
We, the residents and families of California, have much more at stake. Our families are counting on us to raise our voices and join them with the voices of other fenceline communities to support this 3200 ft buffer zone. Unified we can not be drowned out. We have come this far with the comments and help of thousands of voices and now in this final push is how we will push through again.
Raise your voice!