An effort to extend a moratorium on all oil drilling in the city of Carson failed Tuesday night after the five-member City Council failed to reach the four-fifths supermajority needed to keep the ban in place.
The temporary ban, passed last month, was initially sought by the council to allow the city more time to study the potential effects of oil extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and acidization.
Those technologies have been at the center of a controversy over a massive proposed oil project by Occidental Petroleum, which is seeking to drill more than 200 wells near the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.
Much of the contention was based upon fears that the company would employ those methods at the site, a claim it has repeatedly denied.
Unlike previous meetings, supporters of the drilling project -- many of them union members with T-shirts and signs that read “Jobs for Carson” and “Oppose the Ban” -- came out in force.
Many said they were Carson residents and argued that extending the ban would hurt jobs within the city.
“We want Carson to be safe,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, “but let’s not pass a law that’s going to cut off this city from its economy. Together, we will fight to make Carson safe and prosperous for all residents.”
Some city leaders expressed doubt about claims made by some union representatives regarding the number and types of jobs that would come to the city as a result of the drilling project.
Councilman Al Robles, who led the charge on the moratorium, said he believed the number was less than two dozen.
“When you’ve got 10,000 residents who live in their homes within a very short vicinity of that project and two dozen jobs, it’s a no-brainer to me,” Robles said. “But it’s not about the jobs. It’s about money .... It’s about more money than you and I will ever make in our lifetimes, combined.”
Robles and Councilwoman Lula Davis Holmes voted in favor of extending the moratorium to a full year.
Mayor Jim Dear and Councilman Elito Santarina both voted against lengthening it, saying they had decided that it was in the city’s best interest to negotiate with Oxy officials over specific provisions to be followed in an enforceable contract. Councilman Mike Gipson, who echoed similar sentiments, abstained.
Bill McFarland, a representative of Oxy, said that the end to the moratorium demonstrates “that the city continues to recognize the value of an industry that brings safe projects and good jobs to the community.”
A state law that took effect this year 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 the moratorium is set to expire on Friday, meaning the City Council can no longer take up the same issue with an emergency moratorium.