The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously 5-0 on Wednesday on a motion that prohibits all new oil wells and drilling operations in unincorporated parts of the county, as well as starts to look into closing some of the more than 1,600 active and idle oil and gas wells in the area.
According to the motion authored by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl, all new oil and gas extraction wells, including those already allowed for or planned for, would be prohibited. All current oil and gas extraction activities, most notably all wells in the 1,000 acre Inglewood oil field, would be reclassified as legal nonconforming use, allowing the county to legally revoke drilling permits.
The motion also details a 120 day plan in which oil and gas experts help find the most accelerated way to guide in a phase out process. The 5-year phase out program in the Culver City amortization program would specifically be looked at as a model. Health and environmental groups, including the California Air Resources Board and the California Environmental Protection Agency, would also be coordinated with to help monitor the pull out there, make sure the area is monitored and inspected to ensure an environmental turnaround, and help vision what the future land reuses of these areas would be.
Supervisor Mitchell explained the need for a halt and phase out on wells in the motion by pointing out the numerous health risks for people living nearby, the environmental dangers that the wells pose, and how LA County would be in line to follow Govern Gavin Newsom’s executive action banning all oil and gas wells in California by 2045.
“We have an opportunity and responsibility as the home of the largest urban oil field in the nation to lead by example in creating an equitable path for phasing out oil drilling,” said Michell in a statement on Wednesday. “Collectively, the motions that passed today center the needs of the communities and workers most impacted by oil drilling and build on LA County’s momentum in fighting climate change and sunsetting oil and gas operations. I applaud the Board for continuing to move the County forward on this critical issue and the countless advocates that have helped get us to this point. Our work is far from done but this is a promising step for environmental justice.”
Mitchell went even further in a later statement, adding that “My goal is complete, comprehensive cleanup of the site, with the oil companies paying for it, not taxpayers.”
Strong opposition against the Board’s motion
While applauded by environmentalists and many community leaders, many business leaders, energy leaders, and oil and gas producers were up in arms over the motion. The California Independent Petroleum Association sent a letter to the Board before the vote highlighting how gas prices would drastically increase, local economies would be hit, California would be more reliant on foreign oil, and the number of jobs would go down without the wells. The CEO of the Association, Rock Zierman, also expressed that companies should be compensated if their wells are shut down by this motion.
Other oil and gas representatives agreed with Zierman.
“They obviously want us out,” added Nick Lugo, an investor with several small oil companies in Los Angeles who used to work in oil fields in the counties. “100 years ago, oil wells were all over Los Angeles, especially around the area of the La Brea Tar Pits. And the city never had oil companies pay for anything when they were forced off again and again. Now, not only are they saying you’ll be removed, but that they will “help” decide what the land goes towards and that we have to pay for it all.”
“I think the Board just lost it with this one. They don’t care about all the jobs lost, the higher price of gas for consumers, or punishing companies that have given a lot to the local economies over the years. They just want to look like the good guys and bring big projects to win voter favor. How much do you want to bet that Mitchell will have one of these areas named after her too?”
“She has no idea what she [Mitchell] is talking about and it’s obvious she has no idea how the economy works down here. Hopefully we’ll get competent leaders soon.”
More details of the phase out are expected early next year.