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Oil Wells

Variable Definitions:
Oil Wells Count: The number of oil wells in a given area

Oil Wells Rate: The number of oil wells per 10,000 people in a given area

City of Los Angeles GeoHub

Years Available:

Methodology Note:

The original data comes at the point level. Our team spatial joined each point to 2020 Census Tracts based on the dataset’s provided coordinates.

Why are these variables important to measure?

Los Angeles County, often associated with its sprawling urban landscape and iconic Hollywood sign, harbors an unexpected feature: it is home to the largest urban oil field in the United States (Quam-Wickham, 1998). The oil industry has a long history in the region, dating back to the late 19th century, when the first oil wells were drilled, setting the stage for Los Angeles to become a bustling center for oil production (Cooke, 2017). Today, thousands of oil wells, both active and inactive, dot the landscape, hidden in plain sight near homes, schools, and workplaces.

Living in close proximity to oil wells can have significant health implications for residents. Studies have shown that emissions from oil wells, including harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matters such as PM 10/2.5, and trace metals, can contribute to respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, and increased risk of cancer and congenital disabilities (Amoatey et al., 2019). These health risks are particularly concerning in densely populated urban areas like Los Angeles, where oil wells can be found near residential communities (Jiang et al., 2022).

Recent policies in Los Angeles County reflect ongoing efforts to address local oil operations’ environmental and health impacts. For instance, there have been movements toward establishing buffer zones between oil wells and sensitive areas such as homes and schools, aiming to minimize residents’ exposure to pollutants  (Shamasunder et al., 2018). However, these efforts often face challenges due to the complex interplay of economic interests, regulatory frameworks, and community advocacy. Equity implications are also at the forefront, as neighborhoods with higher concentrations of oil wells often overlap with communities of color and lower-income families, raising concerns about environmental justice and the equitable distribution of health risks (Morello-Frosch et al., 2002). Understanding these dynamics is crucial for residents and policymakers as they navigate the implications of urban oil production in Los Angeles County.

Written by Debarun Sarbabidya


Quam-Wickham, N. (1998). “Cities Sacrificed on the Altar of Oil”: Popular Opposition to Oil Development, in 1920s Los Angeles. Environmental History, pp. 3, 189–209.


Cooke, J. (2017). Energy landscape: Los Angeles Harbor and the establishment of oil-based capitalism in Southern California, 1871–1930. Planning Perspectives, pp. 32, 67–86.

Chilingar, G.V., & Endres, B. (2005). Environmental hazards posed by the Los Angeles Basin urban oilfields: an historical perspective of lessons learned. Environmental Geology, 47, 302-317.


Amoatey, P., Omidvarborna, H., Baawain, M.S., & Al-Mamun, A. (2019). Emissions and exposure assessments of SOX, NOX, PM10/2.5 and trace metals from oil industries: A review study (2000–2018). Process Safety and Environmental Protection.


Shamasunder, B., Collier-Oxandale, A., Blickley, J.L., Sadd, J.L., Chan, M., Navarro, S., Hannigan, M., & Wong, N.J. (2018). Community-Based Health and Exposure Study around Urban Oil Developments in South Los Angeles. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15.


Jiang, Y., & Yang, Y. (2022). Environmental Justice in Greater Los Angeles: Impacts of Spatial and Ethnic Factors on Residents’ Socioeconomic and Health Status. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19.


Morello-Frosch, R., Pastor, M., Porras, C., & Sadd, J.L. (2002). Environmental justice and regional inequality in southern California: implications for future research. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110, 149 – 154.

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