The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to end all oil drilling in LA and ban new wells, a historic move in a city that was once built by the booming petroleum industry and resulted from decades of environmental degradation. Consequences have to be faced.
In a 12-0 vote, the council approved a new ordinance that immediately bans new oil and gas extraction and requires that all existing oil and gas extraction sites cease production within 20 years.
The move has been opposed by the oil industry, whose leaders have warned city officials that phasing out would hurt the city’s finances and make LA more dependent on foreign oil.
According to the city’s Department of Planning, Los Angeles has 26 oil and gas fields and more than 5,000 oil and gas wells. Some wells are active, while others are inactive.
Many wells are found in the Wilmington and Seaport areas, but also operate in Downtown, West Los Angeles, South Los Angeles and the northwest San Fernando Valley, according to the city’s planning department.
oil wells Known to emit potential carcinogens Studies have found that exposure to pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, and living near wells have been linked to health problems including respiratory problems and premature birth.
MAP: View oil wells in your neighborhood
Environmental justice activists allege that low-income communities of color are particularly affected by wells and related health problems.
Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, or STAND-LA, a group of community groups that helped lead the legislation, said in a statement Friday that “Blacks, Latinx, and other communities of color are currently at risk of polluting in South LA and Wilmington.” Those living near oil wells and derricks will finally breathe easy.
Nevertheless, STAND-LA members left Friday’s city council meeting and a subsequent news conference with several council members saying they could not support “business as usual”, while Gil Cedillo And Kevin de Leon, who is facing calls to resign after his role in the 2021 incendiary closed-door talks, remains on the council.
“Our city and this council must prepare themselves for the anti-blackness that created the policies that allowed oil drilling in the first neighborhood and that fostered an environment where racism and corruption are so rampant among council members. example,” the group said.
A 2018 City Comptroller report citing state data showed that 77% of active and inactive wells in the city are operated by six companies: Warren E&P; Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC; tidelands oil production; Southern California Gas; Pacific Coast Energy; and Bray Cannon Oil.
In an October letter to city officials, the California Independent Petroleum Association, a trade group representing more than 300 independent crude oil and natural gas producers, disputed claims of “harmful health effects” from oil and gas drilling and production operations.
The group also said that the loss of oil production in the city would lead to more oil imports through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
“The South Coast Air Quality Management District has identified oil tankers as one of the major sources of air pollution in the LA Basin,” the group wrote.
The group also pointed to a June 2020 study by Capital Matrix Consulting, which estimated that the oil and gas industry brings in about $250 million to the city’s general fund.
The city commissioner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the $250 million figure.
James Watt, Warren’s chairman and chief executive, said Friday that his company intends to use “all available legal resources” in response to the new city regulations.
“Our operations are a model for urban oil and gas operations,” said Watt, who described the pollution from Warren’s operations as “comparable to a fast-food restaurant.”
He also stated that Warren converted its operations to use electricity instead of diesel power and that the company has invested over $400 million in its operations.
Council President Paul Krekorian on Friday described the ordinance as a “monumental step” in the city’s history and its relationship with oil.
He noted that City Hall is adorned with art celebrating the petroleum industry, a business that helped spur L.A.’s growth in the early 20th century and later provided jobs for veterans after World War II.
“This may be the most important step toward environmental justice that this council has taken in recent memory,” Krekorian said.
The city is conducting studies to determine when oil companies operating in Los Angeles will be able to recoup their investments from wells and drill sites. If that period is less than 20 years, those companies may have to close operations sooner.
There are two drill sites that sit on city properties: Rancho Park in Cheviot Hills and O’Melveney Park in Granada Hills, said Erica Bleither, petroleum administrator for the city. Oil companies rent property from the city.
The city also charges royalties from wells that are on or near city properties.