Where Redlining and Oil and Gas Drilling Intersect

Research shows neighborhoods historically redlined by the federal government have twice as many oil and gas extraction projects as “desirable” neighborhoods.

2 minute read

April 21, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Oil Pump in Los Angeles

Oil well near houses in Los Angeles, California | Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock

A first-of-its-kind analysis from a research team from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Francisco, and Columbia University highlights the correlation between historical redlining and oil and gas wells in neighborhoods. As Julia Kane writes, “[The research team] compared data on the location of plugged and active oil and gas wells to data from maps generated by the Home Owners Loan Corporation, the federal lending program created to prevent home foreclosures during the Great Depression.”

Looking at data for 33 cities where oil and gas wells are drilled and operated in urban neighborhoods across 13 states, researchers discovered the striking correlation between neighborhoods that were redlined and neighborhoods that have a high density of oil and gas wells.

While the study did not establish a causal link between redlining and drilling, Kane notes, “It’s not news that redlined communities tend to experience worse health outcomes. There are also links between neighborhoods that have undergone disinvestment and neighborhoods where there are higher rates of gun violence and less green space.”

This can directly affect the health of communities living near extraction sites. “Numerous studies have found that living near oil and gas wells increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, impaired lung function, anxiety, depression, preterm birth, and impaired fetal growth — serious concerns for the estimated 17 million people in the U.S. who live within a mile of at least one active well.”

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