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Climate and Environment

Historically Redlined Communities In LA Lead The US In Oil And Gas Well Sites, A New Study Finds

A black oil pumpjack in the center of the image with green tree canopy in the foreground and a neighbhorhood in the background.
An oil pumpjack near homes in the Inglewood Oil Field in Los Angeles
(Gary Kavanagh
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A new study finds there are twice the number of oil and gas wells located in historically redlined neighborhoods — communities where immigrants and people of color were denied loans and credit.

Researchers for the study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, examined 33 U.S. cities and obtained data on more than 12,000 wells established between 1898 and 2021 located within 100 meters of at least one redlined neighborhood.

Los Angeles topped the list with more than 6,600 wells that met that criteria.

The residents of those areas face more of the environmental health hazards that come with oil and gas extraction.

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Lead author David Gonzalez, an environmental epidemiologist at UC Berkeley, said people that live near oil wells are at higher risk for asthma, cancer, heart disease and premature births.

“Redlining has long term generational impacts,” he told LAist. “It's systematic disinvestment in these neighborhoods and I think it's really critical when we see that there's health disparities to ask why. And redlining seems to be part of that picture.”

Gonzalez says his own family lived in the city of Vernon for many years and personally experienced the impacts of redlining, which included living next to oil wells and other industrial sites.

Los Angeles has the largest concentration of urban oil fields in the nation, but only represents about 2% of California’s total oil production.

Earlier this year, the L.A. City Council voted to ban new oil and gas drilling and begin a process to completely phase out existing oil and gas operations in the city within 20 years.

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