City Council Committee Says More Centralized Oil Well Oversight Needed

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles City Council committee today recommended more centralized oversight and inspections of oil wells, while also taking a step that would prevent the reopening of a South L.A. oil field which closed when residents complained that fumes were making them sick.

The City Council has been exploring numerous ways to control or limit the operations of oil wells in the city. A recent report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health put the number of active wells at over 880.

The Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee forwarded three motions to the full council, including one that would prevent an oil field operated by AllenCo Energy Co. on land leased from the Los Angeles Archdiocese from reopening by implementing a little-used law that allows the city to terminate oil drilling districts that have been inactive. The AllenCo field in University Park, located in Councilman Gil Cedillo's District One, has been inactive since 2013, and a report from the Board of Public Works noted that the city could terminate any oil district that had been inactive for a year.

“This motion aims to align land use in our district with the current needs of our community,” Councilman Gil Cedillo said when he introduced the motion last year. “Times have changed and the primary concern for the communities I represent is that they live in a healthy and environmentally just neighborhood. This includes communities that are free of potentially harmful oil emissions or the potential for an oil leak. We are fighting to ensure our residents all over the district have the same quality of life.”

AllenCo voluntarily closed its oil field, at 814 W. 23rd St., in 2013 after health complaints, but Cedillo's office said the company was making efforts to reopen it.

AllenCo officials could not be reached for comment.

In 2016, City Attorney Mike Feuer said the oil field must remain closed until the operator shows it has adhered to all regulations, with even the smallest leak potentially triggering another closure.

Feuer sued the company in early 2014 and obtained an injunction forcing the facility operators to follow all relevant regulatory laws. AllenCo also agreed to pay $1.25 million in penalties, split equally between the City Attorney's and District Attorney's offices.

The committee's action would direct the city attorney's office to prepare and present an ordinance repealing the oil district where the AllenCo site is located.

The committee also moved forward a number of recommendations on centralizing the city's efforts to regulate the industry.

The Board of Public Works noted in a report that the city currently has a decentralized inspection model conducted by multiple departments over various time frames, and that there is no centralized information system for coordinating the inspections nor systematic method for sharing of data within each relevant department.

The report, which the committee approved, proposes a new annual oil well and gas facilities compliance inspection program to be coordinated by the Department of Public Works, specifically the Board of Public Works' Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety.

The committee also approved a related motion seeking a number of reports and recommendations on how to centralize oversight of the oil and gas industries.

Photos: Getty Images

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