As a child, Cobo attended neighborhood rallies with her mom, demanding the end of oil extraction in Los Angeles. She soon co-founded the grassroots campaign People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells), which filed complaints with their local air quality agency against AllenCo. After EPA toxicologists investigated the drilling site near Cobo’s home, AllenCo voluntarily suspended operations. The well officially closed in 2020.
“Neighborhood oil drilling shouldn’t exist,” she says. “It’s inhumane to drill next to where someone’s living. People of color have been ignored on this issue, but we’re not guinea pigs, and we’re more than statistics.”
Cobo, now 21, has gone on to win the Goldman Environmental Prize for her advocacy and was a Time 100 Next recipient in 2022 — and, she is a cancer survivor. “In my heart, I think the cancer is connected to the oil and gas drilling I grew up with,” she says.
Fighting for Change
A movement to change outdated rules from CalGEM, the state oil and gas regulatory agency, spurred environmental advocates into action. Organizations like VISIÓN, a coalition of grassroots environmental justice groups across Kern County and Los Angeles, organized under the powerful rallying cry, “No Drilling Where We’re Living.”
“CalGEM’s failures to act have put California far behind other states,” says Cesar Aguirre. Aguirre, a Kern County organizer with VISIÓN and the Central California Environmental Justice Network, has helped community members share their stories to urge California regulators to end neighborhood oil drilling.
“These oil companies never should have been able to make a profit drilling next to someone’s backyard at the expense of people’s health. What’s happening in our state is not normal, and CalGEM must take action now to protect our communities.”