Culver City Extends Discussions with Sentinel Peak Oil

When Culver City Council passed the Oil Termination Ordinance in June of 2021, the expectation was the the city would want to move quickly, and the oil company would want to move slowly. A report just released by the city has shown this to be the case. While progress is being made, completion is still a long way off. 

While only ten percent of the Inglewood Oil Field is within the city limits, Culver City’s legal action was followed by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voting to shut down oil drilling in September of 2021, using Culver City’s legal standard of ‘nonconforming use.’ 

On October 25, 2021, the City Council formally adopted the Oil Termination Ordinance, which became effective on November 24, 2021, prohibiting the drilling of any new wells or re-drilling of any existing oil wells and further requires the phasing out, plugging and restoration of all existing oil and gas wells by no later than November 24, 2026.

Once the County concludes drilling, the world’s largest urban oil field will need extensive remediation before it ceases to be a health hazard to the population. 

Sentinel Peak Oil, which purchased drilling rights to the field from Freeport-McMoRan for $742 million in 2016, has a history with the city of performative negotiation. Several council meetings in 2021 saw ground-level Sentinel Peak employees show up in their work gear, giving scripted comments in support of the company. Schedules that the City opened for negotiation sat unused until they expired –  then the company requested more time to negotiate. 

According to an official press release from Culver City, the City and Sentinel Peak Resources have extended the term of the existing Tolling Agreement for additional periods of time, currently through July 29, 2022, and are continuing to engage in a dialogue to explore alternatives to the Oil Termination Ordinance, which may mutually serve the parties in an effort to avoid potential litigation. The Tolling Agreement extends the deadline for Sentinel Peak Resources to file legal claims against the City so as to facilitate a reasonable time period to accommodate discussions between the parties as to settlement of potential claims.

The pause created by this tolling period is consistent with recommendations made by several City Council members during the Oil Termination Ordinance public meeting process and Sentinel Peak Resources’ requests for a reasonable window for discussions.

The temporary tolling period does not preclude the City from enforcing the prohibition on the drilling of new wells or the re-drilling or deepening of existing wells, as set forth in Section 17.610.010.D of the Oil Termination Ordinance.

In recognition of progress to date, the City and Sentinel Peak Resources offer the following joint statement: “After the City’s adoption of the Oil Termination Ordinance, the City and Sentinel entered into a Tolling Agreement and a Confidentiality Agreement to engage in a dialogue to explore options with respect to the Oil Termination Ordinance that are mutually agreeable in an effort to avoid litigation. The initial discussions were productive and thus, the parties extended the Tolling Agreement and revised the Confidentiality Agreement to enable the City to provide appropriate updates to the public regarding the progress of their efforts to reach mutual grounds. The parties are mindful of the time frames in the Oil Termination Ordinance, and additional updates will be provided to the public as the discussions continue.”

The Oil Termination Ordinance applies city-wide, including within the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field.

For more information about the Inglewood Oil Field, as well as for periodic news and other updates, please check the City’s website.

Judith Martin-Straw

Additional text from City of Culver City

The Actors' Gang

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