Photo credit: Salud America

Frequent nose bleeds, asthma, cancer diagnoses and undrinkable tap water are only a few of the ways pollution has impacted the lives of residents in Wilmington, Calif. A majority of the community of Wilmington and its neighboring community of Carson is Latino, and they are exposed to more pollution than 90% of the state of California. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking action to protect residents from this toxic pollution.

In Wilmington, schools, homes, hospitals and grocery stores sit atop oil drilling sites. As oil is drilled, a mixture of toxic chemicals spews from the surface, contaminating the air residents breathe and the water they drink. There are five oil refineries in Wilmington and Carson, as well as the Wilmington Oil Field – the third largest oil field in the U.S.

Photo credit: Emmett Institute / Flickr

In most oil-producing states, there are regulations against neighborhood drilling – the practice of drilling for oil within an existing community. For example, in Texas, the statewide regulation prohibits oil drilling within 1,200 feet of property lines. Advocates say that because California has had no statewide regulations against neighborhood drilling, Latinos are facing disproportionate effects to their health.

Newsom recently announced a new ruling that bans oil and gas refineries from drilling within 3,200 feet of property lines – effectively putting a stop to neighborhood drilling. In addition, Newsom has approved a major ruling to reduce smog and clean up oil and gas refineries.

“Today, California took a critical step forward for public health and the safety of our families and children,” said Darryl Molina Sarmiento, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment.

Photo credit: Salud America

Currently, one in 20 Californians live within 2,500 feet of an oil or gas well. Newsom has stated his commitment to phase out oil extraction by 2045, and has taken action to end the issuance of new fracking permits by 2024.

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis head-on while protecting the hardest-hit communities,” the governor said.

More Latinos live in California than any other state (15.6 million), and Latinos make up the largest racial or ethnic demographic in the state (39.4%).


Steph Amaya Mora (she/her/hers) is the Arizona Digital Partner Organizer, based in Phoenix, Arizona. She's Mexican and Salvadoran-American journalist who has volunteered and helped organize with local groups throughout her professional career. She has experience writing stories and producing podcasts for Ability360, the Center for Independent Living in Phoenix, servicing people with disabilities and promoting the center. She has a bachelors in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.