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Carson City Council to vote on oil drilling ban

Frances Haywood holds a sign protesting new oil and gas production in Carson during March council meeting.
Frances Haywood holds a sign protesting new oil and gas production in Carson during March council meeting.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

The Carson City Council will consider extending a temporary moratorium on oil drilling in the city Tuesday evening, as it seeks more time to study the potential effects of oil extraction techniques such as fracking and acidization.

The ban, which halts all new drilling in the city, is set to expire Friday unless council members extend it by a 4/5 vote.

It has thrown into question the fate of a massive proposed oil project by Occidental Petroleum, which seeks to drill more than 200 wells near the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.

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Much of the controversy over the project has centered on whether Occidental will use hydraulic fracturing or other well stimulation techniques at the site.

“There are many, many unanswered questions about fracking or fracking-like technology,” Councilman Albert Robles, who has led the charge against the Oxy project, said after last month’s vote.

“I’m tired of Carson being used as a guinea pig.”

After initially saying it might employ the technique, the company has changed course and vowed publicly not to use fracking or acidization for the proposed project.

Still, many residents and city leaders remain skeptical.

Occidental officials have questioned whether the city has the legal authority to adopt the moratorium, arguing that a state law that took effect in January preempts such regulation.

That law, SB4, requires oil companies to obtain permits before fracking while state agencies develop more comprehensive regulations to oversee well stimulation operations. Those regulations are not expected to be finalized until next year.

City Atty. Bill Wynder said state officials chose not to take an official position on the preemption matter but told city staff they did not intend to challenge the moratorium.

If it passes, Carson’s moratorium could be extended for 10 months and 15 days. A later vote by the council could extend the temporary ban to a total of two years, leaving enough time for state regulations to be worked out, Wynder said.


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