I don’t think about this too often, but I live near an oil field.
Not so close that I’m really worried about air pollution affecting my health, especially when I live even closer to two major freeways. But I drive past the Inglewood Oil Field all the time — or I did, before the coronavirus came to town. The nearest active well is about a mile and a half from my apartment on the Westside of Los Angeles, as the crow flies, in neighboring Culver City.
So I paid a little extra attention when I learned Culver City is considering a plan to shut down its portion of the oil field. The city released a report last month concluding it may have the authority to close wells within city limit this year.
There are homes right up to the edge of the field, which was first tapped by Standard Oil in the 1920s. Here’s an image captured by Times photographer Al Seib, showing houses in the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood with an up-close view of pumpjacks:
Before digging any deeper into Inglewood, let’s stop and remember the theme of last week’s newsletter: environmental injustice. Fossil fuel extraction creates all sorts of environmental injustice issues. People of color are far more likely to breathe air polluted by oil and gas operations, as a result of the same discriminatory systems that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
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It’s also important to note that COVID-19 hasn’t stopped government officials from approving new oil and gas projects.
I’m not just talking about the Trump administration.
In California, regulators working for Gov. Gavin Newsom approved 12 permits last week for hydraulic fracturing — the controversial oil and gas drilling technique better known as fracking — in Kern County, north of Los Angeles. The state’s oil and gas regulator, CalGEM, determined no new environmental review was needed beyond a blanket environmental impact report from 2015 — which, it turns out, was thrown out by a state appeals court earlier this year.
Nonprofit environmental groups say those permits — and two dozen previously issued in April — are illegal under the court order.
State officials disagree, pointing to a modified footnote in the court decision that they say allows them to keep authorizing fracking operations that were already approved by Kern County before the ruling.
As for public health, safety and the environment, a Department of Conservation spokeswoman told me the fracking permits were…