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In a historic move earlier this month, Los Angeles aiming to become 100% carbon-free by 2035, banned all new oil and gas wells. By a vote of 12-0, the City Council has decided to outlaw the drilling of any new oil wells inside the city limits and to phase out all existing ones during the next 20 years.
In the past, environmental laws that started in California frequently expanded to other states, such as the 1970s cleaner emissions rules for automobiles. New York state immediately followed after the state recently enacted a ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.
Despite the state advocating for environmental legislation, Southern California has a long record of oil production, at one point providing 38 % of the nation’s oil supply, primarily due to yield from these sites in Los Angeles.
However, California’s oil sector has been in retreat since its early supremacy. The vast majority of wells across the state have become inactive as the state transitions from fossil fuels. The firms operating them frequently need more funds to shut them down, leaving the state with a prospective multibillion-dollar issue.
As Los Angeles aims to become 100% carbon-free by 2035, urban oil drilling in Los Angeles will soon be a thing of the past as we transition away from fossil fuels, and has been the subject of over a decade’s worth of activities, demonstrations, rallies, and marches. With this ruling, one of the state’s strictest environmental regulations was approved, possibly serving as a template for other municipalities around the country.
Oil pumps in operation at an oilfield near central Los Angeles
LA has about 5,000 active and inactive wells and 26 oil and gas fields. In addition to Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, downtown, West LA, South LA, and the northwest San Fernando Valley, wells can be found around the city.
According to state statistics referenced in a 2018 city controller report, six companies—Warren E&P, Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC, Tidelands Oil Production, Southern California Gas, Pacific Coast Energy, and Brea Canon Oil—operate 77% of the city’s active and inactive wells.
According to Erica Blyther, the city’s petroleum administrator, there are two drill sites located on public land: Rancho Park in Cheviot Hills and O’Melveny Park in Granada Hills. The town rents the land to the oil firms.
The council promised to ensure oil corporations are responsible for effectively shutting production bases and finishing thorough site clean-up within 3 to 5 years following their closure.
Additionally, the city is researching to determine when oil businesses in LA will be able to recuperate their capital expenditures for drilling activities. Operators may be required to shut down production even earlier by the city if they can return their investments before the 20-year deadline.
In Los Angeles, more than 500,000 people reside nearby operational wells that spew out dangerous air pollutants, including formaldehyde, benzene, and hydrogen sulphide. Communities of color are more likely to live near wells outside drill sites near parks, schools, and homes.
According to a study, those who live in close proximity to drilling have a higher risk of premature births, asthma, respiratory illnesses, and cancer. Research in the journal Environmental Research found a connection between living near drilling and reduced lung capacity and coughing.
The oil sector resisted the decision, whose representatives told city authorities that the phase-out would harm the city’s budget and increase L.A.’s dependence on foreign oil.
The California Independent Petroleum Assn., a trade association representing over 300 production companies of crude oil and natural gas, refuted allegations of “harmful health consequences” from oil and gas drilling and production activities in a letter to city authorities in October.
The organization also cited a Capitol Matrix Consulting analysis from June 2020, which projected that the oil and gas sector contributes around $250 million to the city’s general funds. Additionally, wells on or nearby city land provide income for the municipality.
Los Angeles is aiming to become 100% carbon-free by 2035. Following this, the battle for climate action persists and can change how Los Angeles utilizes resources. The city is switching to solar power and battery backup instead of oil and gas drilling. By 2035, it will switch to entirely renewable energy.
The reforms in Los Angeles are significant milestones in the fight against fossil fuels and the transition to a society of ecological sustainability. California is a leader in environmental law, and hopefully, other cities around the country will follow the lead of Los Angeles. It is essential to our societies and climate.