Source: Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), March 1, 2014
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
Facing complaints from South Los Angeles residents living near oil fields, the Los Angeles City Council moved Friday to place a moratorium on fracking and other drilling methods, a move opposed by oil companies.
On a 10-0 vote, the City Council ordered that a new law be drafted that bans fracking and other well-stimulation activities, such as acidizing and gravelling.
Cheers of support erupted from South L.A. residents and environmental leaders in the council chamber after the vote. As crowds spilled into the hallway, a small group chanted “Paul Koretz, Paul Koretz,” a celebration of the Westside councilman who helped propose the ban.
The ordinance must still return to the council for a final vote.
Still unclear is what city agency would oversee the moratorium or what the ultimate impacts will be on residents from the city’s crackdown.
Officials from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the agency that oversees oil drilling in Southern California, said there have been no recent reports of fracking within Los Angeles’ city limits. District officials said that there were 28 acidizing events and four gravel-packing events for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2013.
With the ban, Los Angeles would join other cities, like Dallas, which bans fracking within 1,500 feet of homes, schools or churches.
South L.A. residents who attended Friday’s meeting shared stories of noxious odors and asthma cases that they contend were caused by unorthodox drilling methods. South L.A has oil fields in West Adams and Baldwin Hills.
The Rev. Kelvin Sauls, senior pastor at Holman United Methodist Church in West Adams, said oil drilling left homes cracked and covered in debris, and oil companies were a “bullying neighbor bringing down our beloved community.”
Fracking and other well-stimulation methods involve injecting water or chemicals into the earth to break apart rock to release oil or natural gas. Opponents maintain the methods can cause earthquakes, pose health risks and damage nearby homes.
Earlier in the week at a panel hearing, Nick Ortiz, manager of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the process is time-tested and safe. No economic analysis has been done on the effects of the fracking ban.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is concerned about the possibility of people losing their jobs in the oil industry due to the decision as well as the impact it will have on families who have contracts with oil companies, said Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of public policy affairs at the chamber.
The new ban will be lifted if studies show the practices are safe, although Koretz said he expected the moratorium to be in effect indefinitely.
“I find it highly unlikely that anyone will find it safe,” he said.
Friday’s vote came on the same day that this newspaper reported two city pension funds — Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System and Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions — had ExxonMobil in their top holdings. ExxonMobil practices fracturing, although not in Los Angeles.
On Friday, Koretz said he was surprised to learn the city was heavily invested in oil. His office is researching whether the city could divest from the holdings.