Background

Los Angeles is home to the largest urban oil field in the country. Thousands of active oil wells operate throughout the landscape—including residential areas. Most are located in primarily low-income, minority communities that have historically been burdened by a multitude of environmental justice concerns. The wells in these underrepresented areas are often directly next to homes, are uncovered, and lack reinforcement of city oil regulations. Although oil drilling also occurs in some higher-income, white communities, wells in these affluent areas are usually covered and all relevant regulations are diligently enforced.

STAND – L.A.

Our partner for this project is Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND – L.A.), a coalition of community groups whose mission is to end urban oil extraction in Los Angeles. Their goal is rooted in environmental justice—they seek to protect the health and well-being of communities disproportionately affected by oil extraction. Oil wells near residential communities have been linked to health effects such as nausea, headaches, nosebleeds and even cancer.

STAND – L.A. came to our practicum group, now formally named “Bruins for Environmental Justice,” with a request to conduct research evaluating any health effects that oil extraction may be having in Wilmington, which is currently home to 90 active oil wells located, on average, 200 feet away from residential neighborhoods.

Our Research

Our research focused on the social effects of oil drilling in the, primarily, low-income, Latino community of Wilmington. Bruins for Environmental Justice chose to survey an active oil drilling site in Wilmington, an active oil drilling site in West Pico (a higher-income, white population), and a control site in Pacoima (with similar demographics to that of Wilmington) without oil drilling. The data was analyzed for statistically significant differences amongst these populations (see fact sheet for results). Our goal is to use the conclusions of our research to empower the community of Wilmington and encourage them to stand up for their right to live in a healthy, safe environment. We hope our research will spark a movement in communities suffering from similar environmental injustices.

Students: Anakaren Andrade, Tony Carrera, Francisca Martinez, Lizet Pantoja-Perez, Margaret Rubens, Erick Zerecero Marin.

Advisors: Peter Kareiva, Moana McClellan 

Client: STAND – L.A.

Press inquiries: David Colgan (dcolgan@ioes.ucla.edu, 818-203-2858)