Some of Los Angeles’ orphaned oil wells may be remediated through an initial allocation of $61.4 million to California through the bipartisan infrastructure law’s funding to help states clean up orphaned wells, Rep. Tony CÃ¡rdenas said Monday.
“For far too long, legacy pollution has disproportionately impacted the health and safety of our low income and communities of color,” CÃ¡rdenas, D-Los Angeles, said.
“No one should have to live with the daily threat of polluted air and water from abandoned and orphaned oil wells. Funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law will help us clean up these wells, protect our communities, create jobs and advance environmental justice. Combined with the city’s efforts, the $61.4 million made available to California will help ensure families can live, work and go to school without the constant threat of toxic air pollution from orphaned wells.”
The $61.4 million for California is part of an initial round that includes $1.15 billion for states across the U.S. There will be additional opportunities for California to receive more funding.
The bipartisan infrastructure law includes a total of $4.7 billion in remediation funding for oil wells nationwide. A total of 5,000 oil wells have been identified statewide as eligible for a portion of the funding, said Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor, during a news conference on Dec. 10 with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
His agency, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, is responsible for preparing an application for the funding. The state competed with about 30 other states for portions of the funds, he said.
Haaland noted during the news conference that Los Angeles County has “one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells of any city in the entire country, with some recent estimates suggesting that 500,000 people in L.A. live within half a mile of a well.”
“I’ve spent the day seeing first hand how legacy pollution impacts people in the neighborhoods they live in. Kids who are relegated to having baseball practice next to oil pump jacks and gas wells, children who have grown up with bloody noses and the loss of the adults in their lives to cancer,” Haaland said on Dec. 10.
“These wells can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of the community and the planet, from contaminating groundwater to seeping toxic chemicals and methane gases. That’s not acceptable.”
Los Angeles County has about 1,400 wells identified for potential remediation funding.
“Our city is always proud to partner with the federal government when it comes to improving quality of life for Angelenos, especially our most vulnerable communities,” Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement on Monday. “I’m proud to have a partner like Congressman CÃ¡rdenas, a fellow San Fernando Valley resident, in this fight for environmental justice. The problem is just too big for us to tackle alone and this funding will help us reach our goal of shutting down and rehabilitating oil wells in Los Angeles much faster.”
Orphaned wells can leak hydrocarbons and methane, and remediation funding would allow the state to cut the wellheads off, fill the wells with cement and remove tanks, vessels and pipelines. After that, the soil would be cleaned and tested. The remediation process can cost as little as $15,000 for individual wells in rural areas and as much as $500,000 for wells in urban areas like Los Angeles, which are typically older, Ntuk said.
Along with orphaned oil wells, the city of Los Angeles has 26 oil and gas fields and about 5,274 oil and gas wells, according to the Department of City Planning. Seventeen drill sites are either active, idle or perform gas drill operations.
On Jan. 26, the Los Angeles City Council voted to begin the process of phasing out oil and gas drilling by voting to:
— have the Department of City Planning and the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance to prohibit new oil and gas extraction and make extraction activities a nonconforming use in all areas of the city;
— have the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety hire an expert to conduct an amortization period for existing wells, a prerequisite to decommissioning existing oil fields to allow the oil company to recoup its investment if it hasn’t already; and
— have the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety create a framework for plugging and remediating abandoned oil wells.
The ordinance to ban future oil drilling will have to come back for another vote of the City Council.