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Los Angeles City Council Moves to Ban New Oil and Gas Drilling

On Wednesday, January 26, 2022, the Los Angeles City Council took a significant step towards banning new oil and gas extraction in Los Angeles, and phasing out production from existing wells. By unanimously voting to adopt a series of recommendations contained in a Budget and Finance Committee Report, the City Council has initiated a process that will likely culminate in the decommissioning of over 5,200 wells.

Ordinance Banning New Oil and Gas Extraction

The City Council instructed the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to prepare and present an ordinance prohibiting all new oil and gas extraction within the city limits (new oil and gas wells were banned in surrounding unincorporated areas in 2021). Furthermore, the ordinance will make extraction activities a nonconforming use in all areas of the city.

While there is little doubt that the ordinance will pass, another City Council vote will be necessary before the ban is formally adopted.

Phasing Out Existing Wells

While stopping short of an outright moratorium on current oil and gas extraction, the City Council adopted several measures that initiate the process of phasing out existing wells. First, the City Council commissioned an amortization study to determine how oil and gas companies can recoup their investments in existing well infrastructure, a prerequisite to decommissioning oil and gas operations.

Second, the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety was instructed to develop a new city policy to ensure that wells are properly plugged and abandoned. The new policy will also require site remediation to be completed within 3 to 5 years of the cessation of active oil production, with the intention of ensuring oil companies bear the full responsibility for abandonment and remediation.

Los Angeles currently supports a substantial amount of oil and gas extraction within its city limits, with around 5,229 known wells, 704 of which are considered active. Interested parties should stay alert for updates on whether and when these preliminary measures mature into a permanent ban by the City Council.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.