Saturday, May 28

Los Angeles City Council votes to ban new urban oil and gas drilling in historic move | the Angels


Although better known as the homeland of Hollywood, Los Angeles was based on oil. More than 5,200 oil and gas wells are spread throughout the city, making it one of the largest urban oil fields in the country.

But on Wednesday, the Los Angeles city council voted unanimously to phase out drilling in the city, a move environmental justice advocates have been working toward for years.

The city will now move forward with drafting an ordinance to ban new drilling and assess how to shut down operating wells throughout the city. Officials will also launch an analysis of the economic and labor impacts and how to transition oil industry workers to clean energy jobs. To decommission existing oil operations, a payback study must also be conducted on how oil companies can recoup their investments if they have not already done so.

“From Wilmington to the San Fernando Valley, gas, drilling and oil wells have disproportionately affected the health of our working-class neighborhoods,” said Council President Nury Martinez. “This is yet another example of how frontline communities are disproportionately bearing the impacts of pollution and climate change.”

Calling the measure one of the strongest policies in the entire nation, he said that “Los Angeles is a city that constantly leads the way and today let it be a reminder that the city council prioritizes the health and well-being of all Angelenos” .

Other members echoed his sentiments, expressing strong support for moving away from fossil fuel development. Many of them credited Stand LA, a coalition of environmental justice organizations founded in 2013, which has spent years organizing around the issue and highlighting the devastating impact drilling has on residents.

Nearly a third of Los Angeles’ oil and gas wells are off drilling sites, scattered among homes, schools and parks, said Vince Bertoni, the city’s director of planning, citing data from the energy management division. California Geological Survey in a letter sent to the council. last september.

Thousands of residents live in close proximity to the wells, but the toxic effects are not evenly distributed, with less affluent Angelenos and people of color bearing the brunt of their environmental impact. TO heap from studies have shown the toll that drilling can take on public health, including higher rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease and increased risks of low birth weight babies and another reproductive health problems.

In an article published last year, researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) noted that residents of South Los Angeles, predominantly Black and Latino families, who live near an active oil development have lower lung function. Poor lung capacity “may contribute to environmental health disparities,” the researchers said, comparing the health effects with daily exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Even drilling sites that are no longer in use pose a threat to health and the environment. According to an LA Times investigation published in 2020, abandoned wells in the city continue to emit toxic gases.

“In this community-driven research, we found that living near oil sites is associated with lower lung function,” the researcher said. Jill Johnson, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in a statement, adding that “these impacts raise environmental justice concerns about the effects of urban oil drilling.”

Oil industry officials cited the potential for negative economic impacts to the city in their criticism of the measure and the 8,300 jobs associated with extraction and development.

“Shutting down domestic energy production not only puts Californians out of work and reduces the taxes they pay for vital services, it also makes us more dependent on foreign oil imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq being tanked into the crowded port. Los Angeles,” Rock Zierman, executive director of the California Independent Petroleum Association, noting that California crude is more highly regulated than imports. He also questioned the city’s ability to legally move forward with the plan. “Taking someone’s property without compensation, particularly one that is properly permitted and highly regulated, is illegal and violates the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution against unlawful search and seizure,” he said.

Kevin Slagle, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association highlighted the economic impacts the decision will have on the city.

“We understand very well the impacts [the ordinance] could have on Los Angeles County, its economy and the workers in our industry,” Slagle told the LA Daily News before the decision, adding that they have taken safety mitigation measures to limit the public health impacts of the community. “Many of our own workers and people live, play and go to school in the same places,” Slagle said. “We certainly followed those studies. We conduct our own studies on health impacts and do our best at all times to mitigate, understand and treat any type of health issue that arises from our operations.”

The Western States Petroleum Association could not be reached for additional comment after the vote, prior to publication.

The city’s decision follows a separate motion by the Los Angeles County board of supervisors, which voted unanimously to phase out drilling in unincorporated areas last September for similar reasons. Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who has drafted two motions on the issue, said that of the tens of thousands of people who live near drilling sites, about 73% are people of color. The Inglewood Oil Field, a site that has averaged up to 3.1 billion barrels a year for the past decade, is in Mitchell’s jurisdiction.

“On top of this fairness issue, which should concern us all, oil and gas drilling is contributing to the climate crisis, which we are collectively witnessing every day,” Mitchell. He said the LA Times in September.

The state of California is also moving forward with new rules that require drilling it must be set at least 3,200 feet from “sensitive locations,” which include homes, schools, and hospitals. State officials are now conducting a comprehensive economic analysis of the proposal. The plan, which was praised by environmental justice advocates, has been criticized for allowing existing wells to continue operating and only applies to new developments. The California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division found that about 30% of the state’s production occurs within the 3,200-foot threshold.

Los Angeles plans to go further.

“It’s been a long haul,” Councilman Paul Koretz said during the meeting, highlighting the ways that drilling in his district has hurt residents. “This effort is more than 100 years overdue, and it’s about time.”


www.theguardian.com

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