By Ramona du Houx

September 16, 2021

Supervisors in Los Angeles County unanimously voted on September 15 to end oil and gas drilling in the county’s unincorporated areas. There are more than 1,600 wells in unincorporated LA County, with the majority located in the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the country.

“L.A. County’s vote makes it a national leader in responding to the code red climate emergency,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

The move puts the nation’s most populous county on the path to becoming the first in the U.S. to ban existing oil and gas drilling. The Board also voted to create a program to ensure that wells are properly closed and cleaned up, and to expand the county’s task force focused on a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities. 

“We have an opportunity and responsibility as the home of the largest urban oil field in the nation to lead by example in creating an equitable path for phasing out oil drilling. Collectively, the motions that passed today center the needs of the communities and workers most impacted by oil drilling and build on Los Angeles County’s momentum in fighting climate change and sunsetting oil and gas operations,” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell who made the motion along with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I applaud the Board for continuing to move LA County forward on this critical issue and the countless advocates that have helped get us to this point. There are tens of thousands of people who live in very close proximity to oil wells, 73 percent of whom are people of color. Our work is far from done but this is a promising step for environmental justice.”   

Though there is not yet a timeline for revoking existing drilling permits, the vote could take more than 1,600 oil wells offline, including those that are located in the expansive Inglewood Oil Field. 

Culver City voted in June tto phase out oil and gas production and enact a just transition for industry workers and require the cleanup of well sites in the city’s portion of the Inglewood Oil Field within five years. The City of Los Angeles is also working on developing its own policy to phase out oil drilling. Counties like MontereyAlameda, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Mendocino, and Butte all moved to ban fracking in their jurisdictions years ago.

Environmental justice, climate, faith, labor, and public health groups have long called for an end to neighborhood oil drilling in Los Angeles, citing serious health risks for nearby communities and the need to stop fossil fuel extraction to avert the worst of the climate crisis.

“The oil industry has threatened the health and safety of Los Angeles’ communities of color for decades,” said Martha Dina Arguello, Co-Chair of STAND-LA. “We are grateful to the LA Board of Supervisors for this important first step toward protecting frontline communities from toxic air in their neighborhoods, and bringing about a future free from fossil fuels that we all deserve.”

 Ahead of the vote, groups submitted letters signed by 150 organizations and more than 4,000 petitions and comments to the Board urging them to protect Los Angeles communities by supporting the phase-out of dangerous oil drilling. 

“Today’s vote not only symbolizes the path forward for LA County, it represents the path forward for the entire state and country,” said Josiah Edwards of Sunrise LA. “It says to young, Black and brown people like me, ‘You deserve to have a future and we are going to take the action necessary to ensure that happens’. It represents the beginning of the end for fossil fuel corporations who have long benefited from environmental racism by deliberately perpetrating harm against our communities, seeking profit at our expense.” 

Governor Gavin Newsom famously called global warming a “climate damn emergency” after visiting a Butte County fire zone in 2020 — but his administration has approved more than 9,000 oil and gas permits on state lands, and has been slow to phase out hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The state’s top four oil industry lobbying groups pumped more than $10 million in lobbying dollars into California politics in 2020 alone.