In Historic Move, L.A. County to Phase Out Oil Wells

The long history of oil extraction in the nation's most populous county is entering its final chapter.

1 minute read

September 17, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

An oil well is pictured with buildings in the city of Los Angeles in the background.

The Inglewood Oil Field is located smack dab in the middle of the most populous county in the United States. | Dogora Sun / Shutterstock

"Los Angeles County took the first steps toward winding down oil extraction in unincorporated areas, reports Dharna Noor of a decision by the County Board of Supervisors earlier this week. Unincorporated areas account for 65 percent of the county's land area.

The vote prohibits the permitting of new oil wells and launches a process to evaluate existing oil wells. "Currently, existing oil wells cannot legally be shuttered until owners recoup the costs of drilling, so the evaluation will determine if costs have been recouped for each site," explains Noor.

"The measure would also designate all existing oil and gas extraction activities as 'nonconforming' uses, which could allow county officials to revoke drilling permits."

The new law has the potential to shut down 1,600 wells, including the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field—the largest urban oil field in the United States. "More than 1 million people live within a 5-mile (8-kilometer) radius of the field, including several neighborhoods that are mostly populated by people of color," according to Noor.

The article includes details about the environmental and public health risk of urban oil extraction—making the county's vote a historic environmental justice victory.

Additional coverage of the vote is available in a separate article by Drew Costley.

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