A Breath of Fresh Air from L.A. City Council

by raymond on December 03, 2020

For years, Liberty Hill’s donor-activists have walked with the neighborhood activists of the STAND-LA coalition as they took on drilling in their neighborhoods. We’ve made sure their testimony of respiratory illnesses, dizzying headaches and foul smells was heard widely. We’ve made sure their efforts had the support they needed. 

On Wednesday, their work made a giant leap: a key City Council committee voted to advance a policy that would ban gas and oil drilling throughout the city. Imagine that. An oil town that owes much of its wealth to the oil industry standing up to Big Oil. You are no longer welcome in our neighborhoods.

The motion, passed unanimously by the council’s Environment, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee, directs the City Attorney to draft an ordinance declaring oil and gas extraction sites “non-conforming land uses”—effectively paving the way to shut down extraction in Los Angeles.

This ban would be a gust of fresh air for Angelenos, mainly those living in low income communities of color, who have had life and health imperiled for decades by the toxic fumes of our local fossil fuel extraction industry. And it’s a major victory for STAND-L.A. and their fearless fight against environmental racism and pursuit of climate justice.

“2020 will always be remembered as the year that our world identified, confronted, and protected ourselves against a disease that threatened our breathing and made its worst marks on communities already suffering disproportionately from poverty and racial injustice,” said Liberty Hill CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith. “Let’s also remember it as the year that, led by grass-roots organizers in the communities that have lived under threat the longest, our city faced down another threat to our breathing and an offense to our sense of justice.”

Environmental Justice in general, and ending neighborhood drilling specifically, is a pillar of Liberty Hill’s Agenda for a Just Future. We’ve worked for years to keep L.A. in the vanguard of the climate justice movement and eliminate the hazards of urban oil drilling that are endangering the health of hundreds of thousands of Angelenos. And we’ve stood with our partners to fight against the environmental racism that places oil drilling rigs next to homes and schools, creating toxic health hazards in low income communities of color. 

We’re proud to witness this moment.  

We’re also encouraged that councilmembers echoed advocates’ calls for the city to help create a just transition plan so that fossil fuel workers find careers that support themselves and their families as gas and oil wells are phased out.

Oil extraction was once the foundation of the L.A. economy. Those days are rapidly disappearing. And it has become clear that the toxic impacts of oil drilling cannot coexist with good health in the densely settled commercial and residential neighborhoods of our modern city. There are thousands of active oil wells in the greater L.A. area. 580,000 Angelenos currently live less than a quarter-mile from one.

Our work isn’t over. The ordinance has passed out of committee, but it requires two votes of the full council. We know we will still face powerful opposition from well-funded oil and gas interests who seek to maintain the status quo through a variety of heavy-handed intimidation tactics. There will be legal battles to come and continued fights in other cities as well. Oil drilling is active in many other densely settled residential areas, and STAND-L.A. is going to encourage the County Board of Supervisors to create a 2,500 ft. setback between active drilling sites and residential homes.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we work to create a safer, healthier Los Angeles for every Angeleno.