How Los Angeles communities are fighting the Oil Industry

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Report from coalition of community organizations chroniclessuccessfulefforts to eliminate the source of pollution and disease

Community participation is critical to eliminating the oil drilling facilities across Los Angeles, which are responsible for a range of harmful health impacts disproportionately impacting minority neighborhoods.

This is the conclusion reached in the report, “The Power of Persistence: The Fight to End Oil Drilling in Los Angeles Neighborhoods,” prepared by STAND-LA, a coalition of community organizations, and published by Liberty Hill.

“Initially sparked by a series of site-by-site battles waged by organizers and neighbors from Jefferson Park to University Park to the Baldwin Hills to Wilmington, our campaign has grown into a unified and increasingly powerful force for change, now reverberating across California.,” the report’s introduction reads.


The City of Los Angeles has a long history with oil extraction and production, dating back to 1892 when a gold prospector found oil, turning the region into one of enormous exploitation.  We see the images of extensive oil drilling captured in photographs of the past. For many years, the city’s destiny was tied to the oil industry.

Today, the presence is far less visible. In the City of Los Angeles, the number of oil wells decreased between 2017 and 2022, in the latter year there were 5,076 oil wells in the city and 22,745 in the county.  The majority are not active with many hidden in wooden boxes to disguise their presence.

However, the pervasive odor and discomfort caused by the pollution make abundantly clear its presence as a significant threat to health in surrounding neighborhoods, which demands urgent action.

“People told us that it was not possible to fight the economy and the history of Los Angeles,” says Martha Arguello, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility and co-author of the report. “In the end, we were able to shut down the oil wells.”  


According to the report, the secret of their success is the “power of persistence,” a strategy repeated over and over again in the tireless struggle and demand to eliminate the oil wells responsible for harming the health of the population. The report illustrates that through the power of persistence, the coalition has made history.

That persistence was the force behind the community’s actions to confront the effects of pollution, to knock on the doors of those in power, to take on the industry and to come back with greater determination after each rejection and refusal. This same story is recounted throughout the report’s chapters, written by community leaders from different parts of the city.

As shared by Richard Parks of the Redeemer Community Partnership,  persistence coupled with patience was necessary to have to hear one oil executive say, “Let’s face it, we’re not talking about the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel now are we?” referring to South Los Angeles.


Based on the research and experiences discussed, the report calls out to continue the struggle because “our work is not finished.” It reiterates that “persistence” as a quality of the STAND-LA coalition to achieve the objectives:

1. Accelerate the phase-out timeline to close oil drilling facilities as soon as possible and reduce the risk to fenceline residents;

2. Take immediate action to implement strong health protections at all oil drilling facilities during the phase-out period, protecting nearby residents, especially low-income people of color who continue to experience disproportionate exposure to harm;

3. Provide for a just transition for workers to move into comparable, family-sustaining jobs in the green economy, and for neighboring communities to help ensure safe and proper clean-up and bioremediation of the sites, while determining the future land use to meet their needs for open space, affordable housing, small business revitalization, rematriation of native land.

“Much remains to be done to ensure that all Angelenos can breathe clean air and enjoy the benefits of phasing out fossil fuels,” the report says. “Together, we must do this.”


This is a report in seven parts that tells the story of how a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting health and the environment worked patiently to mobilize communities to successfully achieve a ban on all new drilling and to phase-out existing ones.

These are the stories that make up the report:

  • Geography and Health Consequences of Oil Drilling in Los Angeles: An Update on a Decade of Research.
  • A Community with a Mission to Heal Itself: People Not Pozos and The Allenco Drill Site.
  • From Drilling to Dreaming: A South Los Angeles Neighborhood Realizes its Vision for a Post-Fossil Fuel Future.
  • Wilmington vs Warren E&P: The Ongoing Fight Against Discriminatory and Illegal Rubber-Stamping of Oil Wells in Their Neighborhood.
  • The Faith to Fight for Environmental Justice:  Communities Demand Fair Protections at the Murphy Oil Drilling Site.
  • Door-Knocking to Demand Environmental Justice for Communities Around the Inglewood Oil Field
  • The Law and Ending Oil Drilling in Los Angeles.
  • Leading the Way Toward a Just Transition

The report highlights as examples of what has been achieved through the values of community organizing, building coalitions, drawing from legal expertise and science-based research, communicating with media, relationships within the coalition members, sustained funding, and consensus-building.

The fruits of this labor were realized in December 2022 when the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to prohibit all new drilling and phase-out existing drilling throughout the city. In January 2023, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed suit, unanimously voting to do the same in unincorporated LA County, with future actions anticipated to extend and implement the county’s ban and phase-out.


STAND-L.A. (Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling) defines itself as an environmental justice coalition of community groups that aims to end neighborhood drilling to protect the health and safety of Angelenos on the front lines of urban oil drilling.

Founded informally in 2013, the coalition was officially formed a year later with the name STAND-L.A and is composed of Communities for a Better Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Holman United Methodist Church, Redeemer Community Partnership, Strategic Concepts in Organization and Policy (Los Angeles) and Black Women for Wellness.

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