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A Year After Voting To Ban Oil Drilling, L.A. Is A Step Closer To Actually Doing It

A oil drilling rig looms as smoke from a flare burns in the background of a residential street.
A drilling rig in Wilmington.
(Ashley Hernández
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The L.A. city council unanimously approved an ordinance legally defining oil drilling in L.A. as a “non-conforming land use." When the ordinance goes into effect, it will immediately ban any new oil drilling and start the clock on a 20-year phase out of existing drilling within city limits — though that timeline could shift depending on the results of feasibility studies.

Why it matters: The policy helps amend decades of land use laws that concentrated polluting industry in low-income, predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. For decades, communities living near oil drilling in L.A. have sounded the alarm about the pollution and health impacts. In recent years, research has helped support and quantify their concerns.

In context: When it comes to planetary health, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil is the biggest cause of global heating. So phasing out oil production in the nation's most highly concentrated urban oilfield (aka L.A.) is a big deal.

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The backstory: As a result of grassroots organizing from the east Valley to South L.A. to the Harbor cities, last January the city council voted to ban new oil drilling and phase out the rest. In September, the city released a draft ordinance for how to do that. The council passed the final version Friday.

What's next: The ordinance will go into effect after being approved by the mayor. The city's Board of Public Works also approved launching an economic analysis to guide the way towards phasing out drilling in the city in the next 20 years—or sooner, as many frontline community members hope.

Go deeper:

No More New Oil And Gas Drilling For LA

LA Is Moving Ahead To Phase Out Oil And Gas Drilling. In Many Neighborhoods, It Can't Happen Fast Enough