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Oil lobby threatens lawsuit, but councilmembers vow to press forward on L.A. fracking moratorium

Courtesy of Sunset Magazine

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office reports that the Western States Petroleum Association is threatening to sue over a proposed ban on well stimulation techniques like hydraulic fracturing. But city council members behind the effort say they’ll keep pushing for the moratorium.

Almost a year ago, the Los Angeles City council voted to temporarily ban fracking in Los Angeles. The motion directed LA’s city attorney and the Department of City Planning to report back on how to do it.

Then last fall, a city planning report recommending against a moratorium put a wrench in the works. The planning department concluded that it lacked the necessary oil and gas expertise to develop a ban, and even if city officials found a consultant to help, federal and state rules would possibly trump it.

Now the city attorney has requested closed session meetings with two council committees, Energy and the Environment, and the Planning and Land Use Management Committee after a telephone call from WSPA during the week of January 6.

Still, the two LA city council members who proposed the ban say they are standing by it.

"I remain firmly committed to getting a moratorium approved by the Council so we can prevent unconventional oil and gas drilling like fracking in LA neighborhoods, unless it can be proven safe,” said Mike Bonin, whose Council District 11 covers much of the city’s west side. “Threats and scare tactics from the oil industry are not good reasons to neglect our responsibility to protect health, safety and property in our neighborhoods."

Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the San Fernando Valley, Bel Air and Hollywood also decried the possibility of a lawsuit. “I stand behind both a local moratorium on fracking, as well as statewide and countrywide moratoriums, no matter how many threats we receive from the oil and gas industry.”

According to data gathered by regional air regulators, no wells within city limits were subjected to fracking last year, though some underwent other so-called well stimulation methods like shooting acid down a wellbore to loosen trapped oil and gas.