Only months ago, Culver City finalized putting into motion a means of shutting down oil drilling by amortizing oil wells using the legal standard of “nonconforming use.” The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has now adopted the same stance to begin to shut down oil drilling throughout the county.
On Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban any new oil wells, and change the status of the existing wells to ‘nonconforming.’
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion that stated “The growing body of scientific and public health evidence demonstrating the health, safety, and climate threats posed by oil and gas extraction has led to increased support for stronger regulations as well as the call to phase out urban oil drilling in its entirety.”
Areas that were once far less populated, (and therefore suitable for oil drilling, ) have since been bordered on all sides by housing. In regard to the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil site in the United States, it is merely across the street from some million-dollar homes in Baldwin Hills and Culver City. Culver City has legal authority over ten percent of the site located within city limits; the county has jurisdiction over all of it.
Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell noted that the health risks of living near drilling are significant. “A substantial body of national and California-based scientific research documents evidence the harmful health impacts resulting from living in close proximity to oil drilling operations, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, low birth weight, and reproductive health impacts.”
Mitchell offered in her motion to the board that ” Health impacts are a result of the particulate matter and toxic pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, released from oil and gas extraction. Surprisingly, health protections and mitigation measures at oil production sites are not standardized across the County, which often results in low-income and marginalized communities disproportionately suffering from poor health due to the lack of strictly-enforced regulatory controls.”
The legal definition of “nonconforming use” is “a use of land or structure which was legally established according to the applicable zoning and building laws of the time, but which does not meet current zoning and building regulations.”
Wells were drilled, then houses were built, making it unsuitable for continued drilling.
Amortization is a long term, scheduled pay-down that would allow the government to relieve the company currently drilling there of their financial burden of ceasing operations. Now that the county is taking the same legal angle, there may be a lesser burden on the city.
While ten percent of the Inglewood Oil field is within the city limits of Culver City, that slice is just what the City Council went after with their legislation. In June of 2021, Culver City finalized its intent to evaluate the establishment of an approximate five-year phase-out period for the amortization of nonconforming oil and gas uses within the city. That idea of “nonconforming use” is how the Board of Supervisors is framing their move to stop oil drilling in the county.
“Oil and gas drilling [are] contributing to the climate crisis, which we are collectively bearing witness to every single day,” said Mitchell.
Culver City’s smart and foresightful move to protect the health of their residents is now the predecessor 0f the county’s major policy shift.