Oil wells

Arvin, California is in Kern County, one of the top oil-producing areas in the U.S. Five years ago, a gas pipeline leak in Arvin forced dozens of residents from their homes for months.

Flores: “Right there and then, community members said this is a bigger problem, and we need to solve it.”

Juan Flores, with the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, helped organize concerned residents. He says they campaigned to elect city leaders willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

Their efforts made a difference. Last year, the city passed regulations prohibiting new oil and gas wells within 300 feet of homes, schools, and other locations.

Flores: “It might not seem like a lot, but when you come to Kern County, you see that literally behind a church or behind a clinic or behind a school within twenty feet, there’s an oil pump …”

'Community members should feel that they have the power to truly change the negative impacts of pollution.' Click To Tweet

So he says creating the buffer zone was a victory, and sets an example for other communities dealing with fossil fuel pollution.

Flores: “They don’t have to wait on their county. They do not have to wait on the state. Community members should feel that they have the power to truly change the negative impacts of pollution. That it’s something that is winnable.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.