A view of Marathon Petroleum Corp’s Los Angeles refinery in Carson, California on April 25, 2020.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to ban new oil and gas wells and phase out existing ones over a five-year period, after decades of complaints from residents struggling with health issues in living near drilling sites.
The measure, introduced by Council members Nury Martinez and Paul Krekorian in December 2020, is part of a broader California county and state push to establish more distance between drilling and people and move away fossil fuels that alter the climate.
The area includes one of the largest urban oilfields in the nation, with more than 5,000 active wells in LA County and more than 1,000 active or inactive wells within the city limits. More than half a million people in Los Angeles live within a quarter mile of active wells that release air pollutants like benzene, hydrogen sulfide, particulates and formaldehyde, and the pollution affects many disproportionately black and Latino residents.
“Today we reinforce our commitment to environmental justice,” Martinez said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“For too long, neighborhood drilling has disproportionately affected the health of our low-income communities of color,” Martinez said. “From highways to power plants, our frontline communities bear the brunt of pollution and climate impacts.”
Research shows that people who live near oil and gas drilling sites are at greater risk of premature births, asthma, respiratory disease and cancer. Living near wells is also linked to impaired lung function and wheezing, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research.
“It’s not just about public health and safety…it’s also about justice,” Jasmin Vargas, lead organizer at the nonprofit Food & Water Watch, told council members. before the vote. “I think that day has been a long time coming.”
Oil tanks wedged between houses in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Emma Newburger | CNBC
The oil and gas industry has strongly opposed these measures, arguing that banning and phasing out oil and gas will lead to higher gasoline prices and higher jobs. Proponents have insisted that the city ensure that fossil fuel jobs are replaced with clean energy jobs.
Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Association, an industry group representing nearly 400 oil and gas companies, said the measure would essentially “take someone’s property without compensation, especially one that is duly authorized and highly regulated”.
“Shutting down domestic energy production not only puts Californians out of work and cuts taxes that pay for vital services, but it makes us more dependent on imported foreign oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq that is flowing through tanker truck in LA’s crowded harbor,” Zierman wrote in an email to CNBC.
Los Angeles is the third county government entity to enact an oil and gas ban.
Last year, Culver City passed an ordinance to phase out oil and gas extraction in its portion of the Inglewood Oilfield within five years and to require all wells to be capped and abandoned during that time. period. And the LA County Board of Supervisors voted last year to ban new wells and phase out existing wells in unincorporated areas.
In October, California moved to ban oil wells located within 3,200 feet of homes, schools and populated areas after decades of complaints from residents and activist groups. If passed, the rule would not prohibit existing wells in these areas, but rather require new pollution controls.