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Climate and Environment

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

A oil drilling rig looms as smoke from a flare burns in the background of a residential street.
A drilling rig in Wilmington.
(Ashley Hernandez
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In January, the L.A. city council voted to ban new oil drilling and phase out existing operations — a victory for Angelenos who have been fighting drilling in their neighborhoods for decades.

Last month, the city’s planning department released a draft ordinance for the phase-out over the next 20 years. But many who live closest to oil and gas infrastructure say that’s not fast enough.

Community organizer Alicia Rivera lives in Wilmington, home to the largest oil-extraction facility in Southern California. Too often, she said, she sees children missing school because of asthma, a big reason why she’s worked for decades to get oil drilling out of the neighborhood.

“Twenty years is way too long for people to have to wait after they have endured generations of poisoning by all these oil drilling operations,” Rivera said last week at the city planning department’s first public meeting to solicit feedback on the draft plan. “We need a faster phase-out with a clearer plan for cleanup.”

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Research shows that living near oil operations is dangerous to health. Rivera says that’s why the draft plan released last month needs some serious revision.

She and other advocates are calling for, among other things:

  • Shortening the 20-year time frame
  • Ensuring a three- to five-year time frame to plug and remediate oil wells
  • Engaging the community on decision about what will be done with the sites once they’re shut down
  • A concrete plan to address the impacts on oil workers 

The planning department, the city’s Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety, Department of Building and Safety, and Fire Department, are all responsible for monitoring the more than 5,000 oil and gas wells in the city.

The planning department will hold public meetings over the next few months. The final ordinance will then go before the City Planning Commission later this fall and eventually to city council, then the Mayor’s desk.

The next meeting will be held September 22. You can follow the progress of the draft ordinance here and submit public comments by emailing or calling (213) 978-3094.

Environmental justice communities had a statewide victory last week when the Legislature passed a bill prohibiting any new oil drilling within 3200 feet of homes, schools, hospitals and other populated areas.

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is the biggest cause of the global climate crisis.

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