A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a motion calling for a study on eliminating oil drilling in Los Angeles near homes, schools, parks, churches and health-care facilities.
If the study leads to a law banning drilling near residential properties, it could have wide-ranging implications. There are more than 1,000 wells in the city and more than 580,000 residents living within a quarter-mile of one.
The motion, which was introduced in April by City Council President Herb Wesson, does not specify how far a drilling operation might need to be located from protected facilities.
However, it calls for the Department of City Planning, with the assistance of the city attorney and the city’s petroleum administrator, to report back within 90 days with an analysis of possible changes to the city’s zoning code that drilling operations be located within “a certain setback proximity” of residential facilities.
The motion was approved by the Health, Mental Health and Education Committee, which also heard from numerous speakers both in favor of the motion and opposed to it.
Representatives of some oil companies, labor and business groups said eliminating oil drilling in Los Angeles could cause a loss of jobs while their counterparts from environmental groups spoke of the potential health hazards the drilling sites pose to nearby residents.
“Drilling ensures that we have the local resources needed to balance significant fluctuations in supply and demand. Restricting drilling could exacerbate existing supply and liability concerns, and could lead to significant increases in energy prices and job losses,” Jessica Duboff, vice president of policy for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, told the committee.
Residents who live near drilling sites have been speaking out in recent years about health complications they believe are connected to the local oil fields.
A growing body of scientific evidence has found that people living within 2,500 feet of active oil and gas drilling sites have an increased risk of health problems, including cancer, according to Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling-Los Angeles.
“We come from low-income communities of color across the city of Los Angeles overburdened by toxic exposure from oil drilling, and that’s why we are here coming together to speak before you today. We care about the health of people and workers’ health and rights,” said Daryl Molina Sarmiento, a program director for Communities for a Better Environment and a co-chair of STAND-LA.
Several of Wesson’s council colleagues expressed support for the motion when it was introduced, including Councilmen Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz and Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
“Oil and gas are dirty and dangerous fossil fuels that have no place in the Los Angeles of the future,” Bonin said.
Operating oil and gas wells next to homes, schools and businesses in our neighborhoods … simply isn’t safe, and the action we are taking today will help protect people in Los Angeles from the threats posed by oil and gas drilling in our neighborhoods.”
In January, residents who live near a South Los Angeles drilling site on Jefferson Boulevard lined up at a city Office of Zoning Administration hearing to complain of health problems, excessive noise and pollution.
Several activist groups representing youth filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming the city permitted oil wells near residential areas without conducting environmental studies required under state law and violated anti-discriminatory practices because so many of the wells are located in minority neighborhoods.
The lawsuit — no money was sought — was settled in 2016 with officials agreeing to implement new procedures to ensure the city complies with California Environmental Quality Act guidelines when permitting oil wells.
–City News Service
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