SACRAMENTO, CA – The state law to end new oil drilling in neighborhoods and install strict pollution controls at existing oil and gas sites will finally take effect after a highly controversial battle with the oil industry. Days after Senate Bill 1137 was signed into law by Governor Newom in 2022, California’s oil industry filed a referendum to challenge the law and were caught unscrupulously lying to voters to collect the needed signatures to get it on the November ballot.  

Organizers responded by building a coalition of over 400 endorsers, including labor unions, health groups, environmental and climate justice organizations, celebrities like Jane Fonda, and Gov. Gavin Newsom alongside other elected officials from across the state.

Last week, the California Independent Petroleum Association pulled the referendum challenging the law and backed off their $61 million campaign to continue drilling within 3,200 feet of the state’s schools, daycare centers, health facilities and homes. Organizers from environmental justice communities have long fought against the toxic impact of oil and gas drilling in their neighborhoods and their grassroots advocacy has resulted in the largest health and safety buffer zone around drilling in the country.

Following the referendum’s withdrawal, SB 1137 takes effect immediately.

In response to this precedent-setting victory over the oil industry, advocates and organizers issued the following statements: 

“This is a tremendous victory for Kern County communities and environmental justice advocates who have been fighting tirelessly for over a decade. With CIPA’s withdrawal of their deceitful referendum to overturn SB 1137, our neighborhoods are finally protected from the toxic impacts of oil drilling. This win is a testament to the power of grassroots activism and the resilience of our communities in the face of Big Oil,” said Juan Flores, Organizing Director for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.

“Big Oil poured millions of dollars and spread countless lies in an attempt to overturn our hard-fought victory for health and safety setbacks from oil drilling operations. Today, we celebrate this milestone with frontline communities and the brave doctors and nurses who stand up to the oil industry daily to ensure a clean and healthy future for all Californians. With this withdrawal, SB 1137 will go into immediate effect, bringing us one step closer to ensuring that frontline communities can breathe cleaner air. Today, we celebrate this as a public health victory for all Californians living in the shadow of oil drilling,”  said Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director for Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles.

“Today, we celebrate and move forward with the certainty that SB 1137 was meant to become law. Community members that live next to oil drilling, like those in Wilmington, fought for decades to shape and pass legislation that would protect future generations from toxic drilling next to their homes,” said Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Executive Director for Communities for a Better Environment. “Community rooted solutions, people power, and community organizing works! May this be a resounding reminder to Big Oil that the unity we built across the state to stop them from destroying our communities will always be more powerful.”

“There is no hiding from the truth. Californians prioritize our health and families over the interests of oil companies. Setbacks create tangible protections that do not increase the need for more enforcement. Real protections with real benefits. Frontline organizers and community leaders fought for over a decade to make our health a priority.” said Cesar Aguirre, Associate Director of Air and Climate Team, Central California Environmental Justice Network

“This victory is due to the dedication of so many, and particularly frontline communities who are experiencing the brunt of the oil industry’s pollution and have been advocating for years to get dirty oil drilling out of their backyards.  Despite claims that they were “confident” that the ballot measure would pass, CIPA’s turning to the court system indicates that the industry is afraid of the power of a solid public mandate against oil drilling. What is clear is that we’ll be there to take them on in any forum,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Chirag Bhakta.

“Big Oil tried to put a price on the lives of Californians by buying its way onto the ballot in November, but couldn’t overcome the polls. It’s clear voters overwhelmingly support prioritizing people over industry profit. It’s time for decision makers to recognize Big Oil’s reign in California politics is not absolute and must end,” said Nicole Ghio, Senior Fossil Fuels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth Action.

“This victory is proof of what can happen when we work together. Children will now breathe cleaner air in California. With a strong coalition and powerful activists we can beat fossil fuels. But we have to act fast and we have to act bravely,” said Jane Fonda, actor and climate activist.