The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to support the transition of jobs out of the fossil fuel industry by retraining workers to plug idle and abandoned oil wells in unincorporated areas of the county.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn co-authored the motion.
“It is undisputable that the impacts of climate change are profound and that the need to transition to cleaner, greener sources of energy is urgent. But as we transition, we must ensure it is a just transition,” Ridley-Thomas said.
“There are far too many idle and abandoned wells across this county and state that have not been appropriately capped — and if not addressed, can create significant public health and safety impacts. We have an opportunity here to wed our environmental goals with a meaningful workforce agenda.”
The board directed acting CEO Fesia Davenport to collaborate with public works and other departments, as well as environmentalists and labor unions to come up with a strategy to plug and appropriately abandon old wells that could otherwise cause pollution.
The plan is set to include incentives, enforcement protocols, legislative tools and funding strategies.
The group was also directed to identify priority wells to be plugged first.
As of June, a county strike team had found 1,046 active wells, 637 idle wells and 2,731 abandoned wells within the county’s unincorporated areas.
The California Geologic Energy Management Division has jurisdiction over oil drilling activities, but Ridley-Thomas said the agency has not had the capacity to ensure that wells are scheduled for proper plugging and abandonment.
More than 800 companies have dissolved operations without scheduling wells for abandonment or paying state fees to cover the costs, according to California Geologic Energy Management Division statistics cited in the motion.
“As we transition Los Angeles County away from fossil fuels and do our part to address climate change, we need to support and train our current workforce for the green jobs of the future. We don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs — we can and we must have both,” Hahn said.
A Sierra Club representative agreed.
“By ensuring oil and gas companies are responsible for cleaning up their non-producing wells, Los Angeles will promote public health and safety and combat climate change, while at the same time creating `high-road,’ family-sustaining jobs for oil workers,” said Monica Embrey, associate director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.
The county’s regional planners are also strengthening regulations for existing and future oil and gas operations.
“We recognize the balancing act necessary to reduce environmental and community impacts from oil and gas operations with the need for economic prosperity,” Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek said.
“This action is one more step forward in eliminating the negative impacts of these operations on our most disadvantaged neighborhoods while encouraging new job development in an emerging industrial sector.”
A report is expected back in 45 days.
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