Board Strengthens Regulations on Oil and Gas Facilities: Drilling No Longer Authorized Without A Permit

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, a “Strike Team” has inventoried an estimated 800 oil and gas facilities in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas. The Board unanimously called for being proactive in ensuring that existing oil and gas facilities operate safely, as well as for enhancing the regulatory process for future well sites.

When first assembling the team in 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “The objective here is to ensure that these facilities are appropriately and proactively monitored to ensure they are operating in a manner that protects the health and safety of surrounding communities.”

Strike teams assess oil drilling facilities. Photo by Tim Stapleton / LA County Department of Regional Planning Land Use Regulation Division

The 800 oil and gas facilities have been operating with a lack of consistency in permit conditions, and under regulations that vary from project to project.

The first phase of the Strike Team’s work included a site visit and assessment of all facilities within the unincorporated areas. That work is now complete, and the team is now focusing on the second phase of work, which consists of researching and investigating abandoned and orphaned wells, storage facilities, pipelines, and hazardous chemicals with the objective of providing a recommendation to the Board later next year on how to improve regulations over these facilities.

The Strike Team is comprised of representatives from the County Department of Regional Planning, the Department of Public Health, the Fire Department and Department of Public Works.

The Department of Regional Planning was also directed to update the Zoning Code to require a Conditional Use Permit be obtained before drilling new wells in any land use zone across the unincorporated portions of County. This means that the oil and gas facilities will no longer be able to drill “by right”, or without County discretionary approval. The new ordinance is expected to go to the Regional Planning Commission in June 2020, and thereafter to the Board for final approval.