LA City Council votes to prohibit drilling of new oil and gas wells, phase out existing production




By Dan Bacher | 

On January 26, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the drilling of new oil and gas wells, phase out  production of existing oil and gas wells and create a process for the phase-out and cleanup of existing oil wells, with a just transition, according to a statement from Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) California.

"Oil drilling is and has always been an inherently incompatible land use with neighborhoods and schools and hospitals and homes,” said LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, EOPA California Leadership Council, and one of the co-authors of the original motion. “No one should have to wake up in her own bed with a nose bleed caused by toxic oil drilling chemicals. Nor with cancer caused by the same. That said, we must also ensure the affected workers have a secure working future. Today's item will take care of both." 

The motion specifically directs the Department of City Planning to work with the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that prohibits any new oil and gas extraction operations and makes existing extraction activities a nonconforming land use in all areas of the city, according to Koretz.

The ordinance will also include a study to determine the phase-out period, a plan to plug and remediate inactive wells, and direction to the City to participate in L.A. County’s Just Transition Taskforce to ensure an equitable transition plan for impacted oil workers. 

“On behalf of 430 elected officials from 49 counties working to phase out dangerous oil and gas drilling, EOPA California congratulates the LA City Council for their bold leadership to phase out and end the pumping of dirty fossil fuels that continue to devastate communities of color with toxic pollutants that can lead to premature death,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America. “EOPA Californian is working statewide to do the same as California  transitions with a just transition for workers to a 100 percent clean energy future.” 

The City of Los Angeles has a total of 5,229 oil wells, of which 296 are idle and the majority are located within 2,500 feet of homes, schools and hospitals, EOPA California reported. For comparison, in unincorporated Los Angeles County, there are nearly 2,000 active and idle oil and gas wells.

“More than 580,000 LA City residents live within one-quarter mile of a productive oil and gas well. Scientific evidence shows that nearby oil and gas drilling operations can cause premature death. A host of ailments including, cancer, liver and kidney damage, neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, low birth weights and birth defects have been attributed to oil and gas industries operations,” the group stated.

“Communities of color host the majority of these oil and gas wells and continue to suffer greater health risks. In LA County, 44 percent of Black residents, 37 percent of Latino residents and 48 percent of Asian residents live near oil and gas wells, compared to 31 percent of Caucasian residents,” the group noted.

“We will continue to urge Governor Newsom to stop issuing all oil and gas permitting now and to follow the lead of LA City and Culver City to phase out all oil and gas drilling and pumping operations, with a just transition as we move forward creating good union jobs with a just transition,” added Frongillo. 

The vote wouldn’t have happened without the years of grassroots organizing by the STAND-LA Coalition.  

“This vote represents a tremendous victory for frontline communities across the city of Los Angeles,” said Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, MPH, Executive Director, Esperanza Community Housing. “Unified within STAND-L.A., their strategic and tenacious campaign to outlaw neighborhood drilling has culminated in our elected council members voting to end one of the City's most noxious structural inequities and begin repairing the harm driven by decades of racist planning and zoning policies.”

“These policies have caused  frontline communities across Los Angeles severe and lasting health impacts, destructive land uses and toxic air pollution that contributes to climate change. This morning’s vote begins the work of phasing out all existing operations and leads the way for an equitable  transition to jobs that promote community health and economic growth. Many thanks to members of our City Council who supported and championed this motion, and understand their responsibility as stewards of the City to maintain  its sustainability for future generations,” she concluded.  

On the day of the historic City Council vote, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance reported that Governor Newsom has approved 10,212 oil drilling permits since he assumed office in 2019. The total is nearly identical to the number of permits Governor Jerry Brown approved in his first three years.

According to the latest analysis by FracTracker Alliance of permits approved through December 31, 2021, and posted by Consumer Watchdog at www.Newsomwellwatch.org, the number of permit approvals fell from 2020.  

Nevertheless, the groups note that Newsom’s number is “nipping on the heels” of Brown’s 10,268 permits dispensed in his first three years in office.  Brown — who portrayed himself as a “climate leader” at scores of conferences and  photo opportunities — ultimately approved 31,545 wells during his eight years in office while receiving over $9.8 million from oil and gas corporations and utilities.

Culver City shows that phasing out fossil fuel use helps grow local economies 

Culver City voted in June of 2021 to phase out oil and gas production, enact a just transition for industry workers and require the cleanup of well sites in the city’s portion of the Inglewood Oil Field within five years. 

“How Culver City is phasing out the Inglewood Oil Field’s production has been an example for other municipalities to follow as they transition away from fossil fuels and embrace a clean energy economy,” said Culver City Councilmember Alex Fisch. “We are proving there can be a just transition for workers. The job opportunities that have opened up by closing down oil and gas production show economic growth can be achieved. I’m pleased to see the City of Los Angeles moving forward in the same direction as we are.” 

The Inglewood Oil Field is the largest contiguous urban oil field in the U.S., with more than one million people living within five miles of the site. Jurisdiction over the Inglewood Oil Field is split between Culver City and Los Angeles County,

On average, the field produces 2.5 – 3.1 million barrels of oil yearly on about 1,100 acres. Approximately 10 percent (78 acres) was located within the limits of Culver City, EOPA California noted.


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