Resolution in support of the City of Los Angeles’ consideration of a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer
Passed Unanimously by the Angeles Chapter Clean Break Team on August 27, 2017
Resolution in support of the City of Los Angeles’ consideration of a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer to protect residents living in close proximity to oil and gas production and extraction facilities.
Whereas there are over 1,000 active wells in Los Angeles, and 80% of them are located within 2,500 feet of a sensitive land use such as a home, school, hospital, church, park or ecological reserve where people live, work, play, and learn;
Whereas oil and gas production, extraction, and related operations use chemicals that even at extremely low concentrations are linked to adverse health outcomes like low birth weight, exacerbated heart disease, asthma, brain and nervous system problems, impaired learning and developmental health, fertility and reproductive issues, and cancer;
Whereas emissions are at their most dangerous at the source of pollution, making proximity a primary risk factor for public health;
Whereas cities have the right to act to limit health and safety risks from oil and gas production, extraction, storage and related activities;
Whereas the proposed Los Angeles City ordinance would provide both an amortization period and an administrative review process to eliminate or minimize any takings issues;
Therefore be it resolved that the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Clean Break Committee supports the City of Los Angeles’ consideration of a 2,500-foot human health and safety buffer to protect residents living in close proximity to oil and gas production, extraction, storage and related facilities.
Background: The Sierra Club is concerned about the health impacts of oil and gas drilling on Los Angeles residents, especially in already vulnerable low income communities like South LA and Wilmington. Studies coming out of Pennsylvania and around the country have documented the grave risks these operations pose. These studies show that distance matters and a buffer at least a half mile (2500 feet) between these sites and sensitive receptors is appropriate for our densely populated city.
Los Angeles is at the forefront of implementing policies to protect the environment and to address global climate change. The Los Angeles City Council has been studying means to strengthen the City’s oversight of petroleum and natural gas operations, and has hired a full-time Petroleum Administrator in October, 2016.
For many decades, residents throughout Los Angeles have expressed concerns over the impacts and possible hazards of oil drilling. Recent high-profile events related to oil and gas operations have drawn attention to the many potential health and safety impacts of these operations, especially when they occur in close proximity to sensitive uses such as homes, schools, recreational and healthcare facilities, and places of worship. As such, there is a great need for Los Angeles to explore actions to protect the public from the range of possible risks and hazards associated with oil and gas extraction, production, and storage infrastructure operation.
The primary stated health risk concern associated with oil and gas development within urban areas is proximity to active sites; with concern that the closer oil and gas wells and storage facilities are to sensitive land uses, the higher the risk that the health and safety of nearby residents could be threatened. For this reason, Los Angeles should implement meaningful, long-term measures to address these concerns.
On June 30, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion (attached) to perform a comprehensive analysis regarding changes to the City’s land use codes to impose a setback near sensitive land uses.
Pros: The Sierra Club is an ally of STAND-LA (Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling), which supports the proposed 2500 foot setback.
There is strong support for action among the public and local elected officials, including LA City Council President Herb Wesson.
Cities have strong legal grounds for changes in land use codes to protect the health and safety of their residents. Inclusion of an amortization period and an administrative review process provide appropriate recourse for the oil operator to mitigate any claimed financial losses.
Implementing a 2500 foot setback potentially exposes the City of Los Angeles to a “takings” lawsuit by the oil field operator, Sentinel Peak Oil. The outcome of such a lawsuit is uncertain given that changes in land use codes relative to oil and gas development for health and safety reasons have not been tested in court.
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