Culver City Council votes 4-1 for resolution urging CA to close down SoCalGas Playa del Rey facility

By Dan Bacher | 

Los Angeles, CA - The Culver City Council on March 8 voted 4 to 1 on a resolution calling on the Gavin Newsom Administration to develop a timeline and plan for closing down the neighboring SoCalGas natural gas storage facility in Playa del Rey at the Ballona Wetlands 

Council Members Alex Fisch, Daniel Lee, Yasmin-Iman McMorrin, and Albert Vera voted for the resolution, while Grant Eriksson voted against it.

The vote took place two days before Governor Newsom’s state of the state address at the State Capitol. It also occurred the night before the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5 to 0 to go in the opposite direction from Culver City, approving an ordinance to fast-track over 40,000 new oil and gas wells.

“This is the first body of elected officials to call for outright closure of this dangerous, toxic, emitter of gases that are negatively impacting our Earth's climate,” according to a statement from advocates for the closure.

With more clean energy innovations around battery storage, energy efficiency, and smart grid technologies emerging every day, advocates say the need for natural gas could be “a thing of the past.”

“Such alternatives are only projected to grow in Los Angeles as the city prepares to release its LA100 study, which aims to map out the city’s path to 100 percent renewable energy. Given these developments, the community has demanded more urgent action from Governor Gavin Newsom,” advocates said.

Marcia Hanscom, Executive Director of Ballona Institute, said, “We are grateful to the City Council in Culver City continuing to show environmental leadership. Most decision-makers get overwhelmed with the enormity of the necessary task of moving away from fossil fuels, but Culver City shows the way, taking one step at a time.” 

“We’ve known for years that natural gas storage facilities like the one at Playa del Rey do not have a future in our energy system or in our neighborhoods,” said Ethan Senser, Southern California Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “It’s time that we started planning for that reality at Playa del Rey.”

“While SoCalGas squeezes out profit from the gas field, residents, workers, and the public at large are left as afterthoughts. Governor Newsom has a responsibility to put the needs of the community first by following Culver City’s lead and committing to building real solutions for the safe, fair and equitable transition away from natural gas,” Senser concluded.  

Advocates note that the resolution from Culver City follows that of the L.A. Democratic Party, which issued a similar resolution on September 22, 2020. Culver City modeled its language after another resolution by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, according to the statement.

On October 26, 2020, the Culver City Council also voted unanimously to phase out oil drilling in the city, the site of the largest urban oil field in the U.S,  

The council supported the recommendations of the Oil Drilling Subcommittee, consisting of Vice-Mayor Alex Fisch and Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells, according to a statement from Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPCA). 

Both votes took place as the Gavin Newsom Administration has expanded oil and gas drilling in California — and the City Council members and opponents of oil and gas drilling hope that Newsom will take note of both decisions.  

In a year of record fires and an unprecedented pandemic, California oil regulators more than doubled the approval of permits in 2020 to drill new oil and gas production wells.

The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) of the Department of Conservation, the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, approved more than 1,700 new well permits in 2020, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance reported in January.

“Largely because of a moratorium on high pressure cyclic steaming—a dangerous technique burning carbon-emitting natural gas to make steam used to coax stubborn oil out of the ground-- permits for all types of drilling dropped 14%. Very few drilling permits were used to drill new wells -- only 60 new wells were drilled in 2020,” the groups noted.

The two groups updated the permit numbers and locations on an interactive map at the website: Newsom Well Watch also links to video footage capturing leaking infrastructure at half a dozen well sites receiving drilling permits near communities under the Newsom Administration.

Newsom received $32,000 for his campaign from SoCalGas, which is owned by Sempra Energy, during the 2016 to 2018 campaign cycle, according to The Sempra Energy PAC also contributed a total of 406,250 to federal candidates, 2017-2018, and $319,000 to federal candidates, 2019-2020, according to 

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