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Three of the four candidates running for Los Angeles City Controller in 2022 have issued a joint press release announcing their support for an appeal filed by Neighbors for a Safe Environment, an organization that is fighting the city’s handling of the West Pico Drill Site, located at 9101 and 9151 W. Pico Blvd.
NASE has appealed the city’s approval of a categorical exemption for the site from the California Environmental Quality Act to the Los Angeles City Council. Controller candidates Kenneth Mejia, David Vahedi and Rob Wilcox are calling on the council to support the appeal as well.
“We join together in unison to tell the public and City Council that we demand proper environmental review at the West Pico Drill Site in CD5, and we adamantly oppose the city’s tacit approval of illegal oil drilling,” the release states.
In June 2018, the current controller, Ron Galperin, issued an “excellent audit” of the city’s regulation of the oil industry, according to the release. The report gave the city recommendations that have generally not been implemented, the release states.
Galperin also addressed the issue of environmental reviews required by CEQA, which had been a major failing of the city and the subject of a lawsuit the city settled in 2016, the candidates said. They said it appears that the city’s Department of City Planning and Office of the Zoning Administrator misinformed Galperin about the supposed resolution of the problem.
Since September 2016, the DCP and OZA had processed three major oil drill site applications with improper categorical exemptions from environmental review under CEQA before the issuance of Galperin’s report in June 2018, according to the candidates. Since then, the DCP and OZA has processed two more major oil drill site cases with categorical exemptions, including the West Pico site.
Oil drill site operators in the city have repeatedly undertaken major projects without applying to the zoning administrator for approval, because the city does not do general compliance inspections and because the DCP and OZA refuse to take action even when oil companies drill wells without the approvals required by city code, the release states.
“On Jan. 1, 2023, there will be a new city controller,” the candidates said. “We want the public and current members of City Council to know that if one of us wins election, we will not tolerate the evasion of legally required environmental reviews for oil drill sites, the evasion of legally required zoning administrator reviews for oil drill sites, and we will certainly not tolerate illegal oil drilling.
“By-right oil drilling is not allowed in urban Los Angeles. It is time for the city to obey, implement and enforce its own laws. Proper environmental review is required by the state’s CEQA law, and it is the city’s obligation to do such reviews.”
Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, who is also running for controller, did not sign the statement.
“As the council member who appealed this same case, Mr. Koretz has been advised by the city attorney that he has a conflict and should not speak or vote on the issue,” his campaign said in a separate statement. “Thus, Mr. Koretz cannot sign on to the requested pledge or campaign-related joint press release.
“However, Mr. Koretz remains committed to shutting down oil drilling in every neighborhood of Los Angeles by declaring oil extraction a non-conforming use and to eliminate it through an amortization process, as Council President [Nury] Martinez, Councilmember Koretz and Councilmember [Paul] Krekorian moved in Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee in December 2020,” the statement read.
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