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Op-Ed: Take Action to End Neighborhood Drilling in Los Angeles

A motion that would propel Los Angeles towards a city-wide phase-out of oil and gas drilling needs support to pass committee.

While most recent policy actions on oil and gas address only future operations, the City of LA is preparing to address the wells that are already causing health and climate harm. (Photo: Soul Pusher)

Across California, oil wells are pumping dangerously close to homes, schools, daycare and elderly care facilities, and other sensitive land uses, exposing 2.17 million Californians to air pollution from oil production. Nowhere in the state nor the country is this problem so severe as in Los Angeles itself.

Home to the largest urban oil field in the nation and originally built on oil fortunes, Los Angeles’ high population density and overlapping air pollution problems make urban drilling a severe health threat in communities like South Los Angeles and Wilmington. Recent scientific studies reinforce what frontline communities have known for years: that, in addition to fueling climate change, producing and burning fossil fuels is costing lives, especially during COVID-19 and especially in communities of color.

After years of advocacy and health concerns from impacted residents and a coalition of environmental justice & healthy organizations called STAND-L.A., Los Angeles City Council is currently considering a motion that presents a strong solution to this health, climate and urban planning problem. If passed, the motion would propel the City toward a city-wide phase-out of oil and gas drilling by declaring drilling a non-conforming land-use. This would be unprecedented action from a major city to model for the world not only what a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy looks like, but also what a compassionate dismantling of existing harmful oil operations could look like. While most recent policy actions on oil and gas address only future operations, the City of LA is preparing to address the wells that are already causing health and climate harm. 

Introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Paul Krekorian, this motion has passed out of the Energy, Environmental Justice and Climate Committee and will soon be reviewed by the Planning, Land Use and Management Committee before being voted on by the full Council. When introduced in December, the motion was championed by Councilmember Krekorian, who referred to the City Attorney’s analysis to outline why phasing out oil extraction in Los Angeles would be the next natural progression for an already-declining industry, have few to zero impacts on jobs, and have zero impact on the City’s budget—all while having a positive and equitable climate and public health impact. 

We need the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee to expeditiously approve key recommendations advanced by the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice (ECCEJ) Committee last December to pursue a city-wide phase out.
Mark your calendar for the next PLUM Committee meeting which takes place Tuesday, April 20 at 2 p.m. In this meeting, the proposed ordinance to phase out oil and gas extraction city-wide will be discussed. Join us in calling and writing our councilmembers, urging them to approve the ordinance swiftly and to prioritize the phase-out in impacted, frontline communities first and fast. Tweet at our councilmembers and uplift this issue on Twitter, using sample tweets and images from our toolkit.

Maro Kakoussian is an Air & Climate Associate at Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA and an organizer with the STAND-LA Coalition.