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SB 1137: The fight to protect our communities from Big Oil

By Taarika Sethee

Approximately five and a half million Californians live within one mile of one or more oil and gas wells. This issue of environmental injustice is at the forefront of Youth v. Oil’s work. It began with our advocacy in 2020 for local resolutions calling on Governor Newsom to create health and safety setbacks between oil wells and homes, schools and hospitals, to end permitting of new oil wells, and to begin phasing out oil drilling. 

Youth V Oil photo.

The Youth v. Oil resolutions we passed, at San Diego City Council and San Diego Unified and other school districts, contributed to statewide pressure on Gov. Newsom, and in September, 2022 he signed Senate Bill 1137 into law. SB 1137 would have implemented the first part of our Youth v. Oil resolutions – 3,200 feet setbacks zones between drilling sites and homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, and other places where people are at risk. 

Unfortunately, right after it passed, Big Oil spent $20 Million to collect petition signatures to force a referendum on SB 1137 – so voters in the November 2024 election will decide whether to keep the law or not.

This vital law has the potential to save many lives. The air, water and soil pollution these drilling sites release causes increased rates of severe headaches, childhood leukemia, asthma, birth defects, and cardiac diseases. Additionally, California oil extraction disproportionately affects BIPOC communities, with 92% of the oil extraction sites within 3,200 feet of homes being residence to people of color.  

Youth v. Oil and Youth4Climate youth are dedicated to upholding SB 1137 and making sure Big Oil’s greed does not continue to harm Californians. We are campaigning this year to educate San Diegans about the referendum and urge them to vote to keep the law in place. 

We are currently working on passing resolutions at local cities in support of keeping SB 1137. The resolution passed the San Diego City Council Environment Committee meeting on February 15, and will come for a vote at the full San Diego City Council in the next few weeks (keep an eye out for info). The resolution will be voted on next by the  Encinitas City Council on February 28 (RSVP here). 

To get involved in the campaign, register for our campaign kick off event on Saturday, March 23. We need help to pass more local resolutions, and to educate and mobilize community members. 

Last, but not least, plan to vote YES for SB 1137 on the Nov 2024 ballot. Help us fight Big Oil and ensure the law is kept in place, because everyone deserves clean air and healthy neighborhoods.