Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson last week introduced a motion calling for a study of the feasibility of enacting a half-mile buffer zone around all oil drilling operations in the city, a move that could ultimately lead to the shutdown of hundreds of wells.

Wesson’s motion would direct city planning and zoning staff to study the feasibility of adding a 2,500-foot buffer zone between all active oil and gas drilling sites and homes, schools, churches and health care facilities.

More than 580,000 people in Los Angeles live less than a quarter-mile from an active oil well, according to local activist group Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling – Los Angeles. The group said there is increasing scientific evidence that individuals living within 2,500 feet of active drilling sites are at increased risk for respiratory, neurological, and reproductive health effects as well as cancer.

“Council President Wesson’s motion represents an important first step toward implementing a setback measure that could protect Angelenos from dangerous neighborhood oil drilling,” said the Rev. Kelvin Sauls, senior pastor at Holman United Methodist Church, a member of the Stand-LA Coalition. “(W)e believe the only sensible solution for the health of residents and the environment of our city (is) a buffer prohibiting oil and gas drilling operations within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, hospitals, and other sensitive land uses.”

But Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Association, said the city needs to tread very carefully.

“If the council proceeds with this study, it needs to take into account the economic impact of banning local energy jobs, the loss of state and local taxes, the legal exposure the city will face from an illegal taking of private property as well as the increased dependence on imported foreign oil tankered into L.A.’s ports,” Zierman said.

– Howard Fine

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