Nalleli Cobo, a fierce young advocate who helped lead a coalition to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her Los Angeles community, has been named the 2022 winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.  Cobo, the founder of multiple grassroots groups, an influential member of the STAND-LA coalition, and an 11th Hour Project grantee, is among the most passionate advocates on oil drilling setback work in California.

Recognizing the serious health effects that a nearby oil site was causing on local residents, herself included, Cobo and her family began advocating for its closure when she was just 9 years old. She co-founded People not Pozos, which aims to secure safe and healthy neighborhoods, and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, which focuses on environmental racism in the community. The work was not easy; Cobo battled migraines, nosebleeds and cancer as she led community events and rallies, testified at government meetings, and navigated through the legal and political systems.

Source: Goldman Environmental Prize

A little over a decade later, her efforts have resulted in major policy movement at the city and county level, including a recent unanimous vote to ban new oil exploration and phase out of existing sites. The AllenCo oil site, located just 30 feet from Cobo’s childhood residence, definitively closed in 2020 and is now facing over 24 criminal charges for environmental health and safety violations.

Cobo’s success is a beacon for those in the 11th Hour Project community who continue to fight against fossil fuels.  Some 580,000 LA residents live less than a quarter mile from an active well, the majority of these wells located in Latino and Black neighborhoods.

Nalleli Cobo stands in front of the closed AllenCo site (Photo: Tamara Leigh Photography for the Goldman Environmental Prize)

The prestigious Goldman Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Last year’s honoree, Sharon Lavigne, the founder of Rise St. James, is another close friend and grantee of the 11th Hour project. We are proud to support these incredible and passionate advocates in their work to protect their communities and their environments.