The City Council recently  took a major step toward banning new oil and gas wells in Los Angeles, as well as to begin the amortization process necessary before phasing out existing oil and gas drilling.

Council members unanimously approved a series of recommendations from its Budget and Finance Committee, including:

— Having the Department of City Planning and the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance to prohibit new oil and gas extraction and make extraction activities a nonconforming use in all areas of the city;

— Having the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety hire an expert to conduct an amortization period for existing wells, a prerequisite to decommissioning existing oil fields to allow the oil company to recoup its investment if it hasn’t already; and

— Having the Los Angeles Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration and Safety create a framework for plugging and remediating abandoned oil wells, which can leak hydrocarbons and methane, with the intention of having the oil companies bear the responsibility.

The ordinance to ban future oil drilling will have to come back for another vote of the City Council.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last year to ban new oil and gas wells and phase out existing wells in unincorporated areas.

The city of Los Angeles has 26 oil and gas fields and about 5,274 oil and gas wells, according to the Department of City Planning. 17 drill sites are either active, idle or perform gas drill operations.

“There are oil and gas facilities in nearly every section of the 503 square miles of the city,” Vincent Bertoni, director of the Department of City Planning, wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to the City Council Budget and Finance Committee.

Nearly one-third of Los Angeles’ oil and gas wells exist outside drill sites and are dispersed throughout the city, Bertoni added.

“This is a momentous step forward for Los Angeles, and a clear message we are sending to Big Oil,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the chair of the City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice and River committee, said in a statement to City News Service.

“These actions — drafting an ordinance to declare oil drilling a non-conforming land use throughout the entire City, initiating an amortization study, proper clean-up of all abandoned wells, and City participation in a task force to protect and assist workers — are critical to our ambitious ‘LA100’ efforts, which will achieve 100-percent carbon-free energy in Los Angeles by 2035.”

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