June, 18 2021

By Ramona du Houx

On June 17th, the Culver City council voted to phase out production and fully remediate the site in their portion of the Inglewood Oil Field within the next five years. Their vote included requirements to safely plug, and remediate all wells, and to protect both workers and communities as part of the just transition away from neighborhood oil drilling.

“Culver City has become an example for other municipalities to follow as they transition away from fossil fuels and embrace a clean energy economy,” said Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee, Air Force/CA Air National Guard Veteran. “It has taken the dedication and determination of community leaders who worked tirelessly to ensure oil industry workers would have a just transition and that we all can breathe cleaner air and raise our children in a healthy city.”

The Inglewood Oil Field is vast. It 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) is located within the limits of Culver City. Residents living near the wells have raised concerns for years about exposure to toxic chemicals and smog-forming gases. Families endure the air pollution, but suffer from poor health outcomes including heart and lung disease, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, nervous system damage, birth defects, and premature death. The rate of asthma related emergency hospital visits in Baldwin Hills is 4.4 times greater than the LA County average.

“Last May marked two years that Culver City has been running on 100 percent renewable energy. We don’t need oil, we need a clean energy economy, and places for our kids to play and breathe fresh air. Culver City is proving that a just transition for industry workers can happen. We’re showing a way to a future that we all can embrace,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells, former Culver City Mayor, California Senior Advisor of Elected Officials to Protect America.

Culver City is a member of the Clean Power Alliance, a locally operated electricity provider serving Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

“This is an outcome that every community in Los Angeles deserves. The Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors must listen and learn from our neighbors in Culver City and work to phase out toxic oil drilling in communities of color, who are most severely impacted by fossil fuel pollution,” said the Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND-LA) coalition in a statement. “Communities from South Los Angeles to Wilmington have been advocating for over ten years to see these toxic wells removed from their neighborhoods. Culver City has shared a model for what a responsible, rapid, and equitable just transition can look like—and it’s time for the rest of Los Angeles to follow suit.”

Local residents and allies have been working for years to protect communities and climate by phasing out oil production in Culver City, and the City Council has long been engaged in a planning process for this area. The ordinance is the final step in phasing out drilling in Culver City . 

The Los Angeles City Council is also considering a motion to look into phasing out oil drilling in the city. 

“With this vote, Culver City is showing how to lead a healthy, just transition away from toxic fossil fuels,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Now the rest of Los Angeles and California need to follow Culver City’s lead towards a clean energy future. We don’t need any more spills, air quality alerts or premature deaths to tell us neighborhood drilling is dangerous. It’s time to end this hazardous practice, and Culver City just showed how.” 

“Tonight’s vote is a product of years of community organizing and a testament to the power of people who relentlessly speak up for their right to clean air and a healthy and safe environment,” said David Haake, M.D., Chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Clean Break Committee. “It’s also proof that we don’t have to continue to allow Big Oil executives to operate unchecked in our backyards. Phasing out oil drilling in our communities is both necessary and achievable, and now that Culver City has taken this important step forward, it’s time for the rest of Los Angeles to follow suit.”