Los Angeles is one step closer to banning oil drilling after the Department of City Planning released a draft ordinance Tuesday.
The City Council in January unanimously approved a series of recommendations aimed at banning new oil and gas wells. The draft ordinance would phase out all such oil and gas extraction activities by immediately banning new oil and gas extraction and ceasing such operations within 20 years.
“Oil drilling has long been a part of our past, but today, we’re sending a clear message: Dirty energy production has no future in Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “We are one step closer to getting toxic fumes out of our frontline communities.”
The department will hold public meetings with stakeholders in the coming months, with feedback informing the final ordinance presented to the Planning Commission for a formal recommendation to the council.
“Communities of color have felt the impact of gas and oil drilling for decades — in their air, water, and overall health,” Council President Nury Martinez said. “Local climate change and environmental justice advocates have been working tirelessly with our council to find solutions that would bring an end to drilling in Los Angeles and now, this goal is finally coming to fruition. As our country faces multiple public health emergencies and countless natural disasters due to climate change, this move cannot come soon enough for our city and our planet.”
Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee who first introduced a motion to designate oil and gas production as a nonconforming use, called the step “historic.”
“We can eliminate the public health and safety hazards associated with oil and gas extraction, protect impacted neighborhoods, and wean the local economy from its reliance on fossil fuels,” Krekorian said.
Councilman Paul Koretz added that he was looking forward to the public engagement process and to approving the ordinance while “ensuring that oil and gas workers have ongoing work in the decades it will take to clean up all these toxic sites.”
The recommendations from the council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved in January also included:
— having the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety hire an expert to conduct an amortization period for existing wells, a prerequisite to decommissioning existing oil fields to allow the oil company to recoup its investment if it hasn’t already; and
— having that same office create a framework for plugging and remediating abandoned oil wells, which can leak hydrocarbons and methane, with the intention of having the oil companies bear the responsibility.
The city of Los Angeles has 26 oil and gas fields and about 5,274 oil and gas wells, according to the planning department. Seventeen drill sites are either active, idle or perform gas drill operations.
“There are oil and gas facilities in nearly every section of the 503 square miles of the city,” Vincent Bertoni, director of the department, wrote last September to the City Council Budget and Finance Committee.
Nearly one-third of Los Angeles’ oil and gas wells exist outside drill sites and are dispersed throughout the city, Bertoni added, citing data by the California Geologic Energy Management Division.
Many community groups have lobbied Los Angeles to stop oil drilling, citing the harm it has on communities, which is disproportionately felt in working-class communities and communities of color.
Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed new rules last October, under which new oil wells or drilling facilities in California would have to be at least 3,200 feet from homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other “sensitive locations.”
Newsom cited the impacts that toxic chemicals have on communities, including asthma and birth defects. The proposal is undergoing an economic analysis and public comment before taking effect. The governor has also called for a statewide phase-out of oil extraction by 2045.
A USC study published in April linked living by urban oil wells with wheezing and reduced lung function, symptoms disproportionately borne by people of color in Los Angeles. In some cases, the respiratory harm rivals that of daily exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke or living beside highways spewing auto exhaust, the researchers found.
The study focused on drilling sites in two South LA neighborhoods, Jefferson Park and North University Park, yet could have implications elsewhere in the region. About one-third of LA County residents live less than one mile from an active drilling site — and some live as close as 60 feet.