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.