City Council Votes to End Oil Drilling in Los Angeles, President Martinez to Establish Office to Support Workers
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion to ban oil drilling within the City of Los Angeles today. Originally introduced in 2017, the motion would ban the creation of new wells and phase out existing wells over the next 20 years.
“For too long, neighborhood drilling has disproportionately affected the health of our low-income communities of color,” said Council President Nury Martinez. “I grew up, and continue to live, in communities where you’re concerned about breathing the air around you and have watched your neighbors suffer for decades. Today with this vote, this Council is reinforcing our commitment to environmental justice.”
In recent years, the State of California has doubled down on its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which would significantly decrease the state’s utilization of fossil fuels. This, coupled with the City of Los Angeles’ planned phase-out of oil drilling, would leave thousands of workers out of work.
During today’s Council meeting, Council President Martinez put forward a motion to establish an office whose primary purpose is to support Los Angeles’ workforce as they transition from outdated positions to new, fair wage jobs. The Office of Job Quality Stabilization would work to coordinate efforts at the federal, county, and local levels to ensure that workers in industries at risk of automation are supported. This would strengthen worker re-employment through skills-based workforce development programs that prioritize displaced workers and members of frontline communities.
“We cannot correct the sins of environmental racism by taking away jobs from working class communities,” said Council President Martinez. “This Council prioritizes the health and wellbeing of every Angeleno, and as we work to create a city that is centered around sustainability, we will be working tirelessly to ensure that no one is left out.”
Currently, Los Angeles remains the largest urban oil field in the country. Across Los Angeles, around 580,000 Angelenos currently live less than a quarter mile from an active oil well and, according to the City Controller, there are approximately over 1,000 active or idle wells in the city.
"This is a momentous step forward for Los Angeles, and a clear message we are sending to Big Oil," said Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, the chair of the Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice and River committee. "These actions - drafting an ordinance to declare oil drilling a non-conforming land use throughout the entire City, initiating an amortization study, proper clean-up of all abandoned wells, and City participation in a taskforce to protect and assist workers - are critical to our ambitious 'LA100' efforts, which will achieve 100% carbon-free energy in Los Angeles by 2035. We have a moral imperative to ensure that all Angelenos, especially those in underserved communities, have the right to a safe neighborhood and a healthy life. I want to thank all the environmental advocates and partners, especially the STAND-L.A. coalition, who have helped us get to this point, and will help us go even further as we continue this important work through our committee and the Council at large."
Studies have shown that people who live near oil and gas drilling sites are regularly exposed to harmful pollution and are at a greater risk of preterm births, asthma, respiratory disease, and cancer. Living near oil wells has also been linked to reduced lung function and wheezing. In some cases, the respiratory damage was similar to the damage from daily exposure to secondhand smoke or living beside a freeway.
“For over a century, far too many Angelenos have suffered from oil and gas wells in their neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “Generations of children inhaling toxic chemicals as they walked to school; expectant mothers at far greater risk; residents old and young suffering from chronic headaches, skin and eye irritation and respiratory problems. This appalling health crisis, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color, is inexcusable, especially at the very moment in history when this city and others around the world are working so hard to break our suicidal addiction to fossil fuels. Today, the Council is boldly and courageously standing up to the fossil fuel industry and standing with the families and neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The historic motion that we approved today puts the City of Los Angeles in the forefront of protecting the health of our residents and the future of our planet.”
Since 2017, the Los Angeles City Council has studied the means to strengthen the City's oversight of petroleum and natural gas operations, and hired a full-time Petroleum Administrator in October 2016. For many decades, residents throughout the City have expressed concerns over the impacts and possible hazards of oil drilling.
"Oil drilling is and has always been an inherently incompatible land use with neighborhoods and schools and hospitals and homes. No one should have to wake up in her own bed with a nose bleed caused by toxic oil drilling chemicals. Nor with cancer caused by the same," said Councilmember Paul Koretz, a co-author, alongside Council President Martinez, on the original 2017 motion. "That said, we must also ensure the affected workers have a secure future. Today's item will take care of both."
Per the Petroleum Administrators 2019 report, Los Angeles has oil and gas facilities in nearly every section of the 503 square miles of the City. Currently, the City of Los Angeles produces 2% of California’s total production. Over the past decade, high-profile events related to oil and gas operations have drawn attention to the many potential health and safety impacts of these operations, especially when they occur in such close proximity to sensitive uses such as homes, schools, and recreational and healthcare facilities.
“This historic moment was driven by frontline communities that have been telling us for over a decade that their communities and health matter,” said the Steering Committee of STAND-LA. “We applaud the Los Angeles City Council on their leadership in taking this critical step that will protect public health and open up opportunities for community revitalization and economic growth while meaningfully advancing racial and environmental justice for our city’s most vulnerable residents.”
The City’s Planning Department will report back to Council for approval, an ordinance that would ban the creation of new wells and declare existing wells to be a nonconforming use and phased out over the next twenty years. Martinez’s Office of Job Quality Stabilization motion will next go to the Department of Economic and Workforce Development to report back on the number of positions and funding they need to start.
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