Los Angeles Times

County may restrict drilling

Officials unanimousl­y vote to ban new wells and evaluate the status of existing ones.

- By Jaclyn Cosgrove Times staff writer Sammy Roth contribute­d to this report.

Supervisor­s vote to ban new oil wells, take steps to shut down existing ones.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor­s has taken the first steps to phase out oil production in unincorpor­ated areas, including the Inglewood Oil Field — a move that environmen­tal justice advocates celebrated as historic after decades of fighting.

On Wednesday, the board unanimousl­y voted to ban new oil wells and evaluate the status of existing ones while changing their zoning to “nonconform­ing.”

The environmen­tal impacts of oil drilling in L.A. County have fallen disproport­ionately on people of color.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who wrote two of the drilling-related motions that passed Wednesday, said 73% of county residents who live near an oil well are people of color.

One of Mitchell’s motions cited research showing that proximity to oil drilling can increase the risk of asthma and heart disease, as well as the chance of low birthweigh­t babies.

The Inglewood Oil Field, one of the largest contiguous urban oil fields in the country, has averaged 2.5 to 3.1 million barrels a year for the last decade, according to its website.

The surroundin­g Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area is 71% Black and 17% Latino.

“In addition to this equity issue, which should concern all of us, oil and gas drilling is contributi­ng to the climate crisis, which we are collective­ly bearing witness to every single day,” said Mitchell, whose district includes the Inglewood Oil Field.

Existing oil wells cannot legally be shut down until owners recoup the costs of drilling.

Under a motion the board passed Wednesday, the county will conduct an amortizati­on study to see whether costs have been recouped for each site.

The “nonconform­ing use” designatio­n approved by the board would then allow the county to revoke drilling permits.

Environmen­tal justice advocates celebrated the move.

“We are grateful to the L.A. [County] Board of Supervisor­s for this important first step toward protecting frontline communitie­s from toxic air in their neighborho­ods, and bringing about a future free from fossil fuels that we all deserve,” Martha Dina Arguello, co-chair of the group STAND-L.A., a group that opposes neighborho­od drilling, said in a statement.

Alexandra Nagy, the California director at Food & Water Watch, urged Gov. Gavin Newsom and the L.A. City Council to make similar moves in their jurisdicti­ons.

Leaders in the fossil fuel industry argued that L.A. County residents will rely more on imported oil, resulting in more tankers entering the ports and more trucks on highways.

Oil production in unincorpor­ated parts of the county totaled 2.4 million barrels in 2019, according to the California Independen­t Petroleum Assn.

“Los Angeles residents consume nearly a half million barrels of oil every single day,” Rock Zierman, chief executive of the petroleum associatio­n, said in a statement. “Why any supervisor would want to get that oil from supertanke­rs from Saudi Arabia and Iraq into L.A.’s crowded ports instead of from California workers is a mystery.”

One of the motions approved Wednesday requires the county to develop a plan for cleaning up idle oil wells, which number more than 600, in unincorpor­ated areas. Another will help fossil-fuel workers find new


Culver City recently approved a similar phaseout of oil drilling over the next five years.

Tim Jones, who has lived in Baldwin Hills Estates near the Inglewood Oil Field since 1989, has advocated for a drilling ban for years and is frustrated that the supervisor­s are taking action only now as South L.A. is being gentrified by white families. He is skeptical that the measures will force an end to drilling, and worries that idle oil fields will create a new environmen­tal hazard.

“The only thing that I think is worse than having that oil field in proximity of my home right now would be to have it completely abandoned,” he said. “That would cause the biggest disaster of all. Now I’ve got a multimilli­on-dollar home across the street from a toxic waste site.”

 ?? Jae C. Hong Associated Press ?? AS PART of the supervisor­s’ decisions, the zoning of existing oil wells will be changed to “nonconform­ing.” Above, at the Inglewood Oil Field in May.
Jae C. Hong Associated Press AS PART of the supervisor­s’ decisions, the zoning of existing oil wells will be changed to “nonconform­ing.” Above, at the Inglewood Oil Field in May.

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