Regional news

“Is our livelihood not important?”: Residents blast LA’s drilling ban for leaving them out

Residents in the Baldwin Hills community fume over pollution and children’s future.

[Dry mountain side and active oil well near residential area in Ladera Heights.]

Los Angeles County supervisors passed an ordinance on Tuesday to terminate oil drilling in unincorporated areas of the county over the next 20 years. But residents around Baldwin Hills, which is not part of the ordinance, are upset.

“Why isn’t this [area] being banned?” asked Nicole King, a mother of three who lives near Ladera Little League park, a fence away from an active oil drilling site. “Is it the demographics? Is our livelihood not important?”

The ordinance will gradually shut down 473 oil wells, accounting for almost a third of the oil wells across the county. While a small portion of wells have specific plans and discretionary permits, 855 wells in the unincorporated parts of the Baldwin Hills community have not been addressed in the ordinance.

The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning has not identified a specific procedure or a tentative plan for oil drilling in the Baldwin Hills Community Standard District since June 8, 2022. Yet, the department said in this report that they will address it in future efforts for the Baldwin Hills Community Standard District. As of Friday, the department has not responded to a request for comment.

Los Angeles is historically a lucrative area for the oil industry. It’s home to the country’s largest oil field with thousands of wells scattered around homes, schools and parks. But, less than 1% of unpurified oil processed in Southern California refineries actually comes from wells in Los Angeles, according to Councilman Paul Krekorian.

“[The ordinance] is a really big step for people living near drill sites who have been disproportionately affected,’’ Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said in the L.A. County board meeting.

But while several community activists praised the county’s efforts to shut down wells, people living around Baldwin Hills worried about being left out.

Studies have found living next to urban drilling sites can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and have adverse impact on infant health. Community-focused studies show “increase risk to preterm birth, childhood cancers, heart disease as well as asthma attacks,” said Jill Johnston, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Culver City resident Jajuana Calloway was jogging near Ladera Little League Park with her friends on Wednesday morning. She said she was worried about the health threat of the drills.

“Being a cancer survivor over 20 years, I have high concern,” she said.