Advocates Highlight the Ticking Toxic Time Bomb of California’s Aging Oil Wells and Call on Governor Newsom to hold Fossil Fuel Executives Accountable for Clean-up 

Bakersfield, California — In a powerful bid to shed light on the devastating consequences of idle oil wells in California, groups with the Last Chance Alliance have launched a compelling animated video that chronicles the harrowing tale of Larry Saldaña, an organic farmer whose livelihood was ruthlessly cut off by a crude oil disaster earlier this year.

In February, an unattended and idle oil well operated by Sequoia Exploration unleashed hundreds of gallons of crude oil onto Saldaña’s Bakersfield family farm, covering his crops and even his goats in an oily sheen. The animated video meticulously captures the heart-wrenching story of Saldaña’s struggle for justice against the backdrop of an industry increasingly characterized by negligence.

“I used to nurture the land, but now I’m fighting to save it. The oil spill turned my dreams into a nightmare, but this isn’t just my story, it’ll be the same story for many others in the future. Idle oil wells are ticking time bombs, and my struggle is a call for justice. We can’t afford to be silent. It’s time to stand together, raise our voices, and demand accountability for the sake of our environment, our communities, and our future,” said Larry Saldaña, the organic farmer featured in the video

The video — created by Ruben DeLuna Creative, the animated genius behind “The Story of Stuff” series — serves not only as a testament to the resilience of one individual but also as a powerful exposé on the dangers that oil wells present to California communities. Through vivid animation and heartfelt narrative, the video is a clarion call to Gov. Newsom to take action and address this issue head-on and continue with his promise to protect Californians from the environmental and financial costs the oil industry poses. A recent report by CarbonTracker, There Will Be Blood, estimates the looming cost of cleaning up and plugging the thousands of idle and orphaned wells across the state at upwards of $21 billion — a mammoth price tag that could fall to taxpayers if the government does not hold the industry accountable for the costs.  

Climate justice advocates have for years been calling for the Governor and the state’s oil regulators at CalGEM to take urgent action to head off the growing idle wells crisis and make polluters pay to clean up their own mess. Last week, advocacy groups sent a letter to Gov. Newsom urging him to sign Assembly Bill 1167, the Orphan Well Prevention Act, to help ensure that California taxpayers are not stuck with the bill for cleaning up oil wells that get sold off to less financially stable buyers. On Saturday, Gov. Newsom signed AB 1167,  and organizations celebrated the decision by the Governor to build momentum and hold Big Oil accountable for remedying the idle and orphan well crisis.

In response to the ongoing environmental and economic catastrophe posed by California’s idle oil wells, Last Chance Alliance is calling on Gov. Newsom to:

  • Stop permitting pollution in the first place, by halting oil and gas drilling approvals statewide – and especially in neighborhoods.
  • Compel oil companies to plug the tens of thousands idle wells across the state that present a dire economic, health and climate threat, starting with those closest to communities.
  • Increase monitoring and inspections to detect and stop methane leaks quickly, particularly for wells near residential neighborhoods, and improve enforcement and accountability so negligent operators do not leave residents like Larry out to dry.

“The refusal of Sequoia Exploration to remedy this spill and contain ongoing leaks is one more outrageous example of the severe negligence of oil companies and regulators like CalGEM who are complicit in their lack of oversight,” said Cesar Aguirre, Air & Climate Co-Director of Central California Environmental Justice Network, who also narrated the video. “We can no longer allow oil companies to disregard the families and livelihoods impacted by their operations with impunity. Gov. Newsom can and must hold rogue regulators accountable and demand justice for Larry.” 

For additional information, interviews, footage of the leaking oil well, or photos and video or goats, fruit trees and Larry’s farm covered in oil, please contact Alexandra Nagy at