The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Friday to ban the construction of new oil and gas wells in the city and eventually shut down existing ones as part of California’s oil phase-out trend.
Los Angeles officials called the move necessary to protect the health of residents near the well. It also aims to curb climate change. The nation’s second-largest city wants to achieve 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2035.
“When this ordinance goes into effect, there won’t be any new oil and gas production,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said at a city council meeting. “This is a very landmark step that we’re taking.”
Los Angeles is one of the top oil drilling sites in the most populous U.S. state, along with Kern County in California’s Central Valley.
The new ban comes as the Golden State seeks to reduce oil drilling and eventually end oil consumption. The California legislature voted this year to ban the construction of new oil wells near homes, schools, parks and other sensitive sites (green Line2 September).
The California Air Resources Board last month released an updated “scoping plan,” a blueprint that lays out how the state will achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. The analysis established a goal of reducing oil consumption by 94% by 2045. It also outlines a plan to phase out the use of natural gas in buildings (Climate Line17 November).
Several local governments in California have passed or are considering oil drilling bans, including Culver City adjacent to Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Antioch and Brentwood.
An association of oil drillers criticized the ban as harmful from a climate change perspective. Rock Zierman, chief executive of the Independent Petroleum Association of California, said California’s oil consumption has not declined.
That means, he said, “every barrel of oil we don’t produce has to come in from abroad. They’re just increasing the volume of foreign imports into our congested ports.”
That’s more expensive oil, which will drive up the cost of gasoline, he said. It would also cut jobs in the state and “could lead to costly litigation.”
Possibly quicker decommissioning of wells
Council voted to approve a plan to shut in existing wells within 20 years. Additionally, it directed the city to study whether Los Angeles has a legal basis to shorten the deadlines for certain oil and gas wells.
It also includes a pledge to help transition oil industry workers.An estimated 31,000 industry workers earn approximately $95,000 to $105,000 a year, according to study by Occidental College.
The plan makes recommendations on how to help these workers transition to new jobs, such as the renewable energy economy.
The commission touted the new oil well ban as an important step toward helping people of color and low-income communities. Many oil fields are located near these neighborhoods.
Affected residents include Wendy Miranda, 26, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Wilmington. Her apartment is less than a mile from an oil field, she said.
Miranda said she loved running when she was younger. But at age 15, she started having trouble breathing during exercise and was diagnosed with asthma.
Miranda said her mother, who also suffers from asthma, had to use a breathing aid several times a day. Miranda said it was “heartbreaking” to watch.
“The doctor told her it was because of the environment she lived in that was causing all her health problems [and] Breathing issues,” Miranda said.
She praised the city council vote.
“It’s definitely a win for the community,” Miranda said. “It’s definitely a community-led win. It’s something we’ve been fighting for for years.”
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