LA is following in the steps of Culver City

December 2, 2022

By Ramona du Houx

LOS ANGELES –  The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 on December 2, 2022 to approve an ordinance that will prohibit new oil and gas extraction activities and phase out existing oil drilling citywide, a victory driven by a decade of advocacy by and for frontline communities.

“This is a monumental step towards environmental justice,” said LA City Councilman Paul Koretz, EOPA California Leadership Council.”The message to big oil is clear: we will no longer let our people be harmed by oil and gas extraction. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, drink uncontaminated water and live in safe, healthy neighborhoods.”

The ordinance developed by the Department of City Planning and the City Attorney’s office designates existing extraction activities a nonconforming land use in all zones of the city. The City’s Board of Public Works approved contracts to launch a citywide amortization studies, an economic analysis which may justify shortening L.A. City’s default 20-year phase-out period for existing oil wells. 

“When this ordinance goes into place, there will be no new oil and gas production whatsoever,” Los Angeles City Council president Paul Krekorian said during the council meeting. “That’s a pretty monumental step that we’re taking.”

The council said it would ensure oil companies are held accountable for adequately plugging and completing comprehensive site remediation within three to five years of shutting down production sites.

Oil wells are located in nearly all parts of the city, including Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, downtown, West LA, South LA and the northwest San Fernando Valley.There are 26 oil and gas fields and more than 5,000 active and idle wells in LA. Wells are spread out all over the city, including Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, downtown, West LA, South LA and the northwest San Fernando Valley.

“Hundreds of thousands of Angelenos have had to raise their kids, go to work, prepare their meals (and) go to neighborhood parks in the shadows of oil and gas production,” Krekorian added. “The time has come … when we end oil and gas production in the city of Los Angeles.”

More than half a million people in LA live within a quarter-mile of active wells that release harmful air pollutants like benzene, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and formaldehyde. Nearly one-third of the city’s wells are located outside of drill sites between parks, schools and houses, and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of those sites.

People in these communities abating drill sites are also at greater risk of preterm births, asthma, respiratory disease and cancer, research shows. Living near drilling is also linked to weakened lung function and wheezing, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research.

“The future of Los Angeles is one that will be free from fossil fuel extraction – and that is thanks to the hard work and persistence of frontline communities who fought for over a decade to make this happen. This win – the result of years of community-organizing, coalition building and multi-racial solidarity – signals that Black, Latinx and other communities of color currently living near polluting oil wells and derricks in South L.A. and Wilmington will eventually breathe easier . . .this ordinance is a major opportunity to transform flawed land use and planning systems in our City, which have been historically polluted by systemic racism, into ones that actually serve and benefit all communities,” wrote Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling LA (STAND-L.A.) in a press release. “This ordinance is a victory for frontline communities, for environmental justice, for cleaner air and our climate, and for the entire City’s health.

It is hoped that this ordinance will start to amend decades of racist land use decisions that concentrated oil drilling in Black and Brown communities.

In Los Angeles, we sit on the largest urban oil deposit in the world,” said councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “So with Los Angeles doing it, cities around the world can do it too.”

Culver City was LA’s example-

On June 17, 2021, the Culver City council voted to phase out production and fully remediate the site in their portion of the Inglewood Oil Field within 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 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.

“May of 2020 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.

The LA City vote comes at a time when the City Council continues to face growing community demands for accountability and a change in culture after a recording surfaced in October of Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo, former Council President Nury Martinez and others making racist remarks and exploiting the City’s redistricting process to disempower already disenfranchised Black Angelenos.