Los Angeles prohibits oil and gas drilling within city limits

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An oil pumper works at the Inglewood oil field on January 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban the drilling of new oil and gas wells and eliminate existing wells for the next two decades. This is a historic decision that is coming after years of complaints residents about how pollution from nearby wells has caused them health problems.

On a 12-0 vote, the board on Friday approved order earlier this year, it began drafting a bill that would immediately ban new mining and shut down existing operations for 20 years. The decision to ban new drilling and decommission existing wells is one of the strongest environmental strategies adopted in the state and could pave the way for similar measures in other cities across the country.

Historically, environmental law originated in California was often distributed to other parts of the country, such as cleaner emissions standards for cars in the 1970s. Most recently, the state banned the sale new cars with a gasoline engine by 2035 and New York State soon followed their example.

The city has 26 oil and gas fields and more than 5,000 active and inactive wells. Wells are located throughout the city, including Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, downtown, West Los Angeles, South Los Angeles and the northwest San Fernando Valley.

The oil industry has largely opposed the city’s ban, arguing that phasing out production would make Los Angeles more dependent on foreign energy. The board said it will ensure that oil companies are held accountable for adequate plugging and completion of comprehensive site remediation within three to five years of production site closures.

The city is also conducting studies to determine when oil companies in Los Angeles will be able to recoup their capital investment in drilling. If the operators can recoup those investments before the 20-year term, the city can require those companies to cease production even sooner.

More than half a million people in Los Angeles live within a quarter mile of operating wells that emit harmful air pollutants such as benzene, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter and formaldehyde. Nearly one-third of the city’s wells are located off-site between parks, schools, and homes, and communities of color suffer disproportionately from the health impacts of these locations.

People who live closer to drilling are at greater risk premature birthasthma, respiratory disease and cancer, research shows. According to a study published in the journal Environmental studies.

Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, or Stand LA, a coalition of environmental justice organizations, said the decision “signals that black, Latino and other communities of color who now live near polluting oil wells and rigs in South Los Angeles and Wilmington, breathing easier after all.’

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