Of the nearly five and a half million Californians who live within one mile of an oil or gas well, one-third live in areas with the highest levels of environmental pollution in the state and 92 percent of the individuals living in those heavily burdened areas are people of color.
Studies link proximity to oil and gas wells to a host of health impacts, including increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, pre-term births and high-risk pregnancies, and in some cases, cancer. Oil and gas extraction produces air toxics, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde, fine and ultra-fine particulate matter (PM), and hydrogen sulfide. Other risks include water contamination, toxic chemicals spills, and explosions.
Kern and Los Angeles Counties account for more than 80 percent of the overall oil production in California, placing some of our state’s most overburdened residents’ health and safety at risk, due to the hazards posed by close proximity production.
In 2015, the California Council on Science and Technology’s (CCST) issued a report regarding the health and environmental impacts associated with oil and gas production, which recommended a health and safety buffer zone between sensitive land uses and oil and gas wells in order to protect communities where neighborhood drilling occurs. Despite this recommendation, current law does not prohibit oil and gas operators from placing wells near sensitive areas, such as schools, day cares, residential homes, and hospitals.
AB 345 will mandate a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and sensitive land uses, which include schools, day care centers, residential homes, and hospitals, thereby creating a safe distance between drilling operations and vulnerable populations in order to avoid serious public health and safety risks and impacts.