Los Angeles City Council Approves ‘Historic’ Oil Drilling Ban

Los Angeles City Council Approves 'Historic' Oil Drilling Ban

 By Hailey Konnath

Law360 (December 2, 2022, 10:16 PM EST) — The Los Angeles City Council on Friday voted to ban all oil drilling in the city, signing off on an ordinance that council members and community advocates praised as “historic,” particularly for a city that owes much of its early development and growth to the oil and gas industry.

The city council voted 12-0 to amend the municipal code to prohibit new oil and gas extraction and make existing extraction “a nonconforming use” in all zones of the city. This means that existing wells have 20 years to wind down, though that time frame could be shortened pending the results of an upcoming city economic analysis, according to the ordinance.

City Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson said during the meeting that Los Angeles will lead the state, and potentially the world, with this move.

“In Los Angeles, we sit on the largest urban oil deposit in the world,” said Harris-Dawson, wh orepresents portions of south Los Angeles, one of the areas that has historically seen the most drilling.”So if Los Angeles can do it, cities around the world can do it.”

City Council President Paul Krekorian said it was “a big moment.”

“This may be the most important step toward environmental justice that this council has taken in recent memory,” he said. “And there’s more to do. But let’s celebrate this success.”

Krekorian, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley, another drilling hotspot, noted that LosAngeles City Hall features art celebrating the oil and gas industry. Much of the city’s early economic development and growth was thanks to the industry, he said. But he said the result is hundreds of thousands of Angelenos for generations being forced to live in the “shadows of oil and gas production” and everything that entails, like exposure to toxic chemicals and fumes and noise.

“To most of us, that seems unthinkable,” Krekorian said. “But that was the reality, and still is the reality in much of Los Angeles.”

Environmental justice coalition Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling LA, which has long pushed for an end to drilling, celebrated the ordinance’s passage as a “major community victory.”

“This ordinance will amend decades of racist land use decisions that concentrated oil drilling in Black and Brown communities,” the coalition said in a statement.

It continued, “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 [the Wilmington area] will eventually breathe easier.”

The ordinance was opposed by oil and gas industry group the California Independent PetroleumAssociation, which represents about 500 independent crude oil and natural gas producers, royalty owners, and service and supply companies, per its website. In an October letter to the city, the association warned that shutting down wells in the city would just mean more reliance on foreign oil.It also disagreed with the assessment that oil production is dangerous, per the letter.

The industry association didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday.

According to the city, Los Angeles has more than 5,000 oil and gas wells, though some of those aren’t in operation.

The city ban comes on the heels of similar legislation at the state level. In September, CaliforniaGov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 1137, which required that new and modified oil and gas wells be set back at least 3,200 feet from homes, schools, health care facilities and other sensitive areas, according to the governor’s office.

The oil industry similarly blasted Newsom’s decision to sign that legislation, which was part of a larger climate measures package, saying that it will curtail drilling in the state.

“What will be ‘historic’ about the package of bills signed by the governor today will be the tremendous costs and impacts they will impose on California residents, our economy and our way of life,” Western States Petroleum Association President and CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd said at the time.

–Additional reporting by Lauren Berg. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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Blame game over O.C. oil spill heats up as pipeline company sues shipping firms

Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Two cargo ships that allegedly dragged an oil pipeline with their anchors during a winter storm should be held liable for a disastrous October oil spill that sent thousands of gallons of crude into the waters off Orange County, the operator of the ruptured pipeline said in a lawsuit filed Monday.

In a 35-page complaint filed in federal court, Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. accused two shipping companies and their subsidiaries — based in Switzerland, Panama, Liberia and Greece — of improperly allowing their cargo ships to drop anchor near the pipeline and of failing to notify authorities after the damage occurred.

Without the presence of the cargo ship anchors, “the pipeline would not have been displaced or damaged and thus would not have failed,” Amplify said in the complaint.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors and directs traffic in the busy San Pedro Bay, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The nonprofit should have been aware of the anchor drags and should have notified the company, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also names as defendants the captains and crews of the two cargo ships, the MSC Danit and the Cosco Beijing.

The Coast Guard has designated both ships parties of interest in the federal investigation of the spill, which sent at least 25,000 gallons of crude gushing into the waters off Orange County. An anchor striking and dragging the pipeline could have made the conduit more vulnerable to other damage or to environmental stressors, the Coast Guard said.

Amplify’s lawsuit said that, if company employees had been aware of the damage, they would have deployed a remotely operated vehicle to inspect the pipeline, “detected its dislocation and the damage done to it, suspended operations immediately, and undertaken remedial measures that would have prevented the discharge of oil.”

“We would have immediately assessed the situation and made any necessary repairs,” company spokeswoman Amy Conway said in a statement Monday.

Capt. Kip Louttit, the executive director of the Marine Exchange, said he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not comment. Al Peacock, a lawyer who represents the owners and operators of the Beijing, also said he could not comment. Representatives of the owner and operator of the Danit did not immediately respond to inquiries about the suit.

After warnings of an approaching storm on Jan. 25, 2021, more than 20 container ships left their anchorages in San Pedro Bay and headed to deeper waters to ride out the storm, the lawsuit said. But the Danit and the Beijing remained near the pipeline, the complaint said.

Driven by winds of up to 63 mph and waves of up to 17 feet, both ships — which are longer than a downtown skyscraper — dragged their anchors across the seafloor “and into areas where federal law prohibits anchoring,” the complaint said.

Movement data from the Danit shows the ship began “moving erratically” while broadcasting that it was at anchor, and “zig-zagged” over the pipeline repeatedly over a three-hour period, the lawsuit said.

As the Danit prepared to raise its anchor and head to deeper waters, the Beijing came within about 560 feet of colliding with the other ship, the lawsuit said, citing November court filings by the Dordellas Finance Corp., the Panamanian company that owns the Danit.

The Danit “ceased its anchor-raising operations and took action to avoid a collision” with the Beijing, the lawsuit said. The Danit’s crew eventually sailed away without notifying authorities of any damage, while the Beijing remained at anchor near the pipeline, the lawsuit said.

Given the “proximity between the ships, the length of the chains typically used to anchor such vessels,” and the Beijing’s movements in the area, Amplify alleged that the Beijing also dragged its anchor across the pipeline.

The lawsuit accused both shipping companies of negligence. When a vessel strikes a stationary object, courts presume the vessel is at fault, the lawsuit said.

Amplify is seeking punitive damages, as well as reimbursement for legal fees, the bill to repair and replace the ruptured portions of the pipeline, and the revenue lost while the pipeline has been inoperable.

Amplify is also pushing to require the Marine Exchange to notify owners of undersea property of any potential anchor drags within 24 hours of the incident.

The company also wants the Marine Exchange to block ships from anchoring in areas immediately adjacent to the pipeline when bad weather is likely, writing that “significant vessel traffic and congestion … combined with the ever-present threat of heavy weather, make future anchor-dragging incidents reasonably likely.”