LONG BEACH, Calif. – An environmental organization sued the city of Long Beach Thursday, accusing it of approving a five-year plan for oil and gas drilling within the city without conducting an assessment to determine if the plan meets state requirements for environmental protection.
In its Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity contends the city has never completed an environmental review of drilling operations in the city, equating to a failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
“It’s outrageous that Long Beach has never conducted an environmental review of its oil and gas operations,” Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center, said in a statement. “California has a strong bedrock environmental and health protection law for good reason, and Long Beach has simply ignored it. The city needs to comply with the law and do its duty to protect Californians from oil and gas pollution.”
A representative for the city said they have not been served with the lawsuit, but once it is, it will “review the lawsuit and take/recommend appropriate steps to represent the city’s interests.”
“In anticipation of this matter being pending litigation, the city cannot provide further information at this time,” according to the city. “In the course of our duties as the trustee for the state of California in operating the oil field, the city takes our environmental responsibilities incredibly seriously and follows all state requirements for approving oil management plans and required environmental approvals.”
The lawsuit stems from the City Council’s March approval of a required five-year plan for oil drilling operations that was subsequently submitted to the State Lands Commission. According to the suit, the commission reviewed the plan and recommended a series of alterations, which were subsequently made, but the commission “asserted in its staff report that CEQA did not apply to the plans.”
The Center insists, however, that given the environmental dangers presented by drilling operations, the plan should be subject to state review requirements.
According to the lawsuit, more than 30% of Long Beach residents live within 3,200 feet of an operational oil and gas well within the city limits, and 72.4% of those affected residents are people of color.
“Drilling for oil and gas is a dirty business, and people in Long Beach have the right to know what these operations are doing to their air and their health,” Jeffers said. “Long Beach claims to be moving toward a zero- carbon future, but the emissions that will come from this drilling are a huge carbon bomb that the city isn’t acknowledging.”