Originally published on NRDC Expert Blog.
By Damon Nagami, Senior Attorney, Lands Division, Nature Program
The Culver City Council voted 4-1 last Thursday night to phase out oil drilling within its portion of the Inglewood Oil Field. This vote was a bold and unprecedented step that residents and advocates have been pushing toward for many years.
Phasing out oil drilling operations at the Inglewood field is a sensible step for many reasons. Oil production in this particular field has already been on the decline for many years. But many wells remain active, and we’ve known for a while now that studies have linked proximity to oil wells to a host of serious health issues, including asthma and respiratory problems, preterm births and other adverse birth outcomes, and some forms of cancer.
The phase-out approach is also a long-overdue example of environmental justice in action, where Culver City is proactively addressing and starting to reverse decades of harmful and racist land use policies that have led to BIPOC communities bearing the brunt of oil well pollution. The drilling phase-out also has the potential to create high-road jobs, hopefully for folks in the local community, to cap the oil wells and clean up the oil well sites.
To put it bluntly, this is the boldest move yet by an oil-producing jurisdiction to move away from dirty fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future. Yet the way Culver City has gone about regulating its portion of the oil field hasn’t been rash or impulsive — on the contrary, the city’s years-long approach has been methodical, thorough, legally sound, and based on the best available data and science.
Culver City’s trailblazing action is the latest in a growing trend of California cities, counties, and even the state itself rethinking the status quo of ever-expanding oil production. Two Los Angeles City Council committees have now approved a motion that would explore the city’s own oil drilling phase-out, which would affect hundreds of wells across Los Angeles. Ventura County adopted “buffer zones” known as setbacks in September that prohibited oil production within 1,500 feet from homes and within 2,500 feet from schools. And the state’s oil and gas regulator is updating its regulations to potentially include a similar buffer zone that would apply statewide.
Perhaps most importantly, none of this progress would be happening without the loud and persistent calls for change from frontline community members who have been leading the fight against neighborhood oil drilling for years. Culver City’s leaders have listened attentively to the community’s concerns, and are taking decisive action to protect residents’ and workers’ health, safety, and wellbeing.
Featured photo by Jared Evans on Unsplash
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