Dr. Alfred L. Glover (Courtesy photo)


Living in Los Angeles for over 20 years, I have viewed the climate injustice and environmental racism in our neighborhoods from oil and gas drilling specifically in Black and Brown communities.

I have witnessed over the years the admissions of a steady stream of carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals, that have affected our neighborhood, in a very quiet and clandestine fashion. Exposure from these hazardous operations, gas and oil include constant emissions, odors, noise, light, pollution, and a persistent exposure to fracking and other detrimental activities.

The risk from volatile organic compounds or VOCs, along with noxious mixture of other air contaminants, and methane which is one of the most potent pollutants to the environment. The emission of hundreds of chemicals that often disrupt hormones, and cause reproductive and developmental harm. Contamination of our ground water and potentially drinking water is very real.

Chronic exposure to drilling sites is as harmful to the lungs as breathing freeway exhaust and second hand smoke on a constant basis. Hazardous gases also releases a mixture of dangerous, petroleum-based gases, known as BTEX, that stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene.

Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to an increase in leukemia and other blood cancers. Knowing all this helps, explain the prevalence of ethnic and racial health disparities to black Californians, having the shortest lifespan an experienced the highest death rate from breast, cervical, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer among all racial and ethnic groups in the state of California.

What are some of the solutions? We are still waiting on the protections from the landmark health and safety act California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law in September 2022. What we saw soon after was signed, the oil and gas companies wasting no time filing referendums to overturn the measure.

The California setback law prohibits operators from reworking and repairing existing wells in addition to starting new wells within the safety zone. The good news is that our local governments and activist groups aren’t willing to wait around for the enforcement of the state law.

The city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County have acted on their own to formulate stricter policies to prevent oil and gas productions moving forward. The greater news is that the Biden – Harris administration signed an executive order on April 21, that created an office of environmental justice that recognizes that racism is a fundamental driver of environmental injustice.

This is a great opportunity for all of us to get involved, through our organizations, schools, and churches. We must hold our politicians accountable to enact clear-cut, climate and environmental justice policies.

Our children and their children’s children will have an environment that they can live and thrive in.


Dr. Alfred Glover is a 2023 Climate and Health Equity Fellow, Podiatric Surgeon and Limb Salvage Specialist, and a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy.