LA City Council takes step to plug ‘orphaned’ oil wells

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday took a step toward identifying and plugging “orphaned” oil wells that have been abandoned and lack plans for proper termination.

The council voted 11-0 to instruct the City Attorney’s Office, Office of Finance and City Administrative Office to report back with recommendations to update the city’s Oil Well Inspection Program to comply with California’s Orphan Well Prevention Act.

Additionally, staff will be tasked with compiling a list of oil wells across the city that are likely to be without an operator to ensure these wells are property plugged in the future.

Council members Kevin de León, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price and Monica Rodriguez were absent during the vote.

The city’s action follows a motion introduced by council members Bob Blumenfield and Heather Hutt on March 22.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1167, also known as the Orphan Well Prevention Act. The law authored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, seeks to protect residents by requiring anyone acquiring rights to operate an oil well or production facility to file financial plans to cover costs of plugging, abandonment and site restoration of the well once operation ceases.

The California Geologic Energy Management Division estimates that there are already more than 5,300 idle wells across the state that are likely orphaned, including about 1,400 in Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles Fire Department administers and operates the Oil Well Inspection Program, which is charged with fire and life safety inspections of all oil wells throughout the city, and it maintains records of over 3,500 oils wells dating back to the 1930s. Under the program, city staff work to ensure that every active well has a bond or cash deposit on file with the city.

The program also requires oil well owners, before proceeding with an abandonment of any well, to obtain what is known as a Specific Action Permit for Abandonment from LAFD, and a separate bond required for plugging the well.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.