City Council votes to halt oil drilling in South LA and throughout city

Additional reporting by Hailey Sayegh and Nicole Piper

Scroll down for a video documenting the efforts by South LA residents and activists to halt oil drilling in West Adams.

A boy plays in the apartment complex next to the Murphy Drill Site | Olga Grigoryants

A boy plays in the apartment complex next to the Murphy Drill Site | Olga Grigoryants

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday for a citywide ordinance that would prohibit fracking in Los Angeles. The vote was the first step in a lengthy process to create the ordinance that, if approved, will halt activities associated with hydraulic fracturing. Thirteen out of 15 councilmembers voted “yes” with two members absent.

The moratorium, which is temporary compared to a permanent ban, would prohibit activity associated with “well stimulation and hydraulic fracturing” until “safety and reliability of Los Angeles water supplies are assured,” according to the motion.

More than 200 people, some from the South L.A. neighborhoods where oil production companies operate, gathered in the audience to show their support for moratorium. Many wore stickers that read “Ban Fracking Now.”“Unregulated fracking is crazy,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, to cheers and applause from the crowd. “People get sick near wells, they’re getting nose bleeds, headaches and other symptoms.”

Councilman Mike Bonin applauds the vote. | Olga Grigoryants

Councilman Mike Bonin applauds the vote. | Olga Grigoryants

Councilman Mike Bonin, who co-authored the motion with Koretz, called fracking “insane” and “dangerous,” saying it has no benefit for the community.

“We, as the largest city in Los Angeles County, don’t believe this is safe and we want a moratorium on this until it’s regulated and its safety can be proved,” Bonin said.

Unconventional drilling practices often known as “fracking,” including hydraulic fracturing along with acidization and gravel-packing, use a large amount of water and chemicals to extract oil from far beneath the ground. Many critics say the chemicals and their health affects are unknown.

Councilmembers said fracking can contribute to water contamination and air pollution, and even, according to Bonin, trigger earthquakes.

South L.A. is home to three drilling sites known as Allenco, Murphy and Budlong, all close to USC.

Murphy oil field. | Daina Beth Solomon

Murphy oil field. | Daina Beth Solomon

The Murphy site at 2126 West Adams Blvd., owned by Freeport McMoRan Oil and Gas, was quiet on a recent weekday afternoon. A five-foot-tall sound wall, installed to block drilling noises, hid any view of the site.

The Zoning Administration halted operations there a month ago because Freeport built the wall without a city permit. Still, some residents complain they sometimes hear drilling and smell gas.

Learn more in a recent article from Intersections: West Adams neighbors seek to oust oil production

Donald Martin, a resident whose apartment complex is separated from the oil drill site by the small parking lot, said he and his family feel shaking and her rumbling daily. They also smell chemicals frequently.

“There is a vapor coming out of pipe and when wind blows, you can smell that stuff,” Martin said. “When the wind blows this way, the chemicals blow directly into my bedroom window.”

Martin said his biggest concern is the long-time affect of the chemicals on his grandchildren.

Another South L.A. resident, USC environmental studies major Will O’Meara, also has been affected first-hand.

A look into the Murphy site. | Stephanie Monte

A look into the Murphy site. | Stephanie Monte

“There is one of these sites less than 2,000 feet from my house,” he said, referring to the Allenco facility on 23rd Street. “Headaches, chronic nosebleeds, respiratory problems, the horrible smell,” are some of the problems his neighbors have faced.

Freeport’s vice president Hance Myers said in a statement that the moratorium’s “generic scope” could stop “even routine well maintenance activities needed to ensure the mechanical integrity of wells and maintain conventional oil production.”

He also said that the moratorium could impact thousands of jobs along with the city’s revenue streams and “tens of thousands of fixed-income royalty recipients.”

Residents like Martin and O’Meara say they will not stop protesting urban oil drilling until the sites halt production. Activists will push for City Council to approve the ordinance this summer.


The City Council vote comes on the heels of months of protest by residents and activists. Staff Reporter Stephanie Monte has been observing and documenting their efforts in South L.A. Click play on the video below to learn about their efforts to halt drilling in West Adams. 

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