The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two companion motions led by Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell with co-authorship from Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Janice Hahn, that sets LA County on path to becoming the first in the nation to ban existing oil drilling. It’s an opportunity to and transition fossil fuel workers to family sustaining careers in clean energy and other climate-friendly industries.
Tens of thousands of County residents live in close proximity to an oil well and nearly 73 percent of those residents are people of color. Within unincorporated communities of LA County, there are approximately 1,600 active and idle oil wells. Over half of those wells are within the Inglewood Oil Field alone, making it the largest urban oil field in the nation, located in LA County’s Second Supervisorial District.
“We have an opportunity and responsibility as the home of the largest urban oil field in the nation to lead by example in creating an equitable path for phasing out oil drilling. Collectively, the motions that passed today center the needs of the communities and workers most impacted by oil drilling and build on LA County’s momentum in fighting climate change and sunsetting oil and gas operations,” shared Mitchell. “I applaud the board for continuing to move the County forward on this critical issue and the countless advocates that have helped get us to this point. Our work is far from done but this is a promising step for environmental justice.”
Mitchell’s motion titled Protecting Communities Near Oil and Gas Drilling Operations in Los Angeles County co-authored by Kuehl, updates the Department of Regional Planning’s (DRP) Draft Oil Well Ordinance for unincorporated LA County to prohibit all new oil and gas extraction wells in all zones and designates all existing oil and gas extraction activities as nonconforming uses in all zones. This motion also requests a report back from DRP in 120 days on the financial cost to phasing out oil operations with actionable steps the County can take.
“Urban oil drilling isn’t safe. People who live near active oil wells suffer high rates of asthma, with an even greater impact on people’s lungs than living next to a freeway. For the health and well-being of our families and children, we need to end this practice as soon as possible. This motion gets us one step closer to that goal,” said Kuehl.
Phasing out oil drilling will require an intentional plan for transitioning workers on these sites into jobs and industries that are safe and provide family sustaining wages. This is the focus of Mitchell’s motion: Developing a Comprehensive Strategy for a Just Transition Away from Fossil Fuels, co-authored by Hahn. This motion helps operationalize the recommendations from the county’s Just Transition to Clean Energy Task Force which includes centering the needs and perspectives of workers and frontline communities in workforce transition strategies that include all sectors of the fossil fuel industry.
“We don’t have to choose between the environment and good jobs—we can, and we should have both,” said Hahn. “But we need to be intentional about creating those jobs and investing in new opportunities for workers.”
“Responsibly phasing out oil drilling and cleaning up old wells is critical to ensuring we protect public health as part of a just transition in LA County,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU 2015. “We applaud the Board of Supervisors for taking this historic vote, and hope that it can represent a model for the rest of the state to protect both workers and public health.”
In 2019, the Board adopted the Our County Sustainability Plan, which included a comprehensive strategy for a more equitable LA County, and two key directives for protecting communities from oil wells: (1) addressing the proximity between oil and gas operations and sensitive land uses and (2) developing a sunset strategy for oil and gas operations. The motions passed build on the County’s progress to better regulate oil drilling and prioritize the public health.
“Angelenos have been forced to live with dangerous oil drilling in our backyards for far too long, putting our families’ health at risk and adding to the climate chaos we’re already experiencing. This historic vote is the direct result of communities coming together to demand better,” said Sierra Club Campaign Representative, Nicole Levin. “Ending oil drilling in our communities is possible, and for the sake of our health and our climate, we must do so immediately. We look forward to working with the County to follow through on this vote by phasing out existing drilling as soon as possible, and we urge the rest of Los Angeles to follow suit.”
“As someone who lives in close proximity to oil drilling, seeing motions introduced to begin the process to phase out oil drilling in LA County is exciting for frontline residents. Our County has the opportunity to right the wrongs of racist land-use decisions such as redlining and expedited oil drilling permit approvals and has the power to step up for vulnerable families living, playing, and praying right next to oil drilling,” shared Ashley Hernandez, Advocate with Communities for a Better Environment.