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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Long Beach sued over plan to drill for oil and gas

The city of Long Beach hasn't conducted an environmental review of oil and gas drilling operations that extract more than five million barrels each year, according to the complaint.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — An environmental group filed a lawsuit against Long Beach on Thursday, aiming to block the city's authorization of oil and gas drilling for the next five years.

In its complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Center for Biological Diversity claims that Long Beach violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not conducting an environmental review in order to assess the impacts of the oil and gas drilling operations — in fact, the city has never conducted any such review, according to the suit.

Emily Jeffers, a staff attorney for the center, called that omission "outrageous."

“Drilling for oil and gas is a dirty business, and people in Long Beach have the right to know what these operations are doing to their air and their health,” said Jeffers, in a written statement. “Long Beach claims to be moving toward a zero-carbon future, but the emissions that will come from this drilling are a huge carbon bomb that the city isn’t acknowledging.”

The Long Beach City Attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The city's plan authorizes 100 drilling activities between 2023 and 2028. In that time, it "projects the extraction of over 26.2 million barrels of oil and 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas production," according to the complaint, an increase over the last five years.

Nearly a third of Long Beach's population — about 140,138 residents — live within 3,200 feet (a bit more than half a mile) of an operational oil or gas well within the city's limits, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, and "studies have shown that living near oil and gas development results in higher rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, cancer and adverse birth outcomes."

Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a sweeping environmental package that would, among other things, mandate that any new oil well be 3,200 feet away from any homes, schools, parks or businesses open to the public. The law is on hold while it's being challenged by an oil industry-backed referendum.

Most of the Long Beach's oil production comes from wells on four offshore islands, camouflaged and sound-proofed by building facades, which typical produce more than 5 million barrels of oil and 2 billion cubic feet of gas per year. The hidden oil wells are easily within spitting distance of public beaches, and not far from hundreds of homes near the shore. But the biggest area of concern, perhaps, is the threat of an oil spill from underwater pipelines.

"Due to its age, oil and gas infrastructure in waters off California, including Long Beach’s oil islands and pipelines, is especially susceptible to rupture and oil spills," the suit says. "In the last several years, many oil spills have occurred in Southern Californian waters, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and harming local communities, the coastal ecosystem, endangered wildlife, and the economy."

The complaint raises a number of other concerns, including the use of modern drilling techniques, such as fracking, in which drillers inject water and chemicals into the ground in order to dislodge oil and gas from the ground. Some studies have found a link between fracking and an increased risk of earthquakes. The suit also points to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions further exacerbating global warming, as well as air pollution, as environmental impacts that should be assessed before the city approves its five-year drilling plan.

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Categories / Energy, Environment

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