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Los Angeles Might Finally Get a Single Person to Keep an Eye on All Its Oil Drilling

Los Angeles city codes dating all the way back to 1958 dictate that there should be someone on city staff that watches over all things oil-related—the city is dotted with oil rigs—but "for decades, no one has held the job full time." That might be changing very soon, says the LA Times. A proposal introduced in City Hall yesterday made the case that ""the city needs to take a more proactive approach to ensure that oil and gas production in the city is conducted in the safest manner possible." Mayor Eric Garcetti agreed, saying that his office was already exploring possible applicants for the position.

In the 1960s, the "petroleum administrator" was actively involved in making sure that the oil industry grew in an "orderly" way throughout the city and was also tasked with keeping residents who live near active sites safe. But as time went on, the position's scope was reduced and now it's just "a city analyst who provides reports only when requested." The City Administrative Officer says the last request was made five years ago.

This revival of interest in appointing a staffer that LA should have had all along probably comes a little later than many who have been speaking out against out-of-control drilling in the city would have liked. In November, an environmental nonprofit's report pointed out that oil drilling seems to be happening almost entirely in dense, poorer, non-white neighborhoods, like Jefferson Park near USC.

That report also underscored the findings of another one out the month before, from the state regulatory agency that oversees oil production, which noted that no one's paying consistent attention to what's going on at oil drilling sites. The move for more oil oversight in LA also comes as the enormous leak at a natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch stretches into its fourth month—"a debacle that has drawn fresh attention to the risks of oil and gas operations close to homes."

Now that there seems to be a consensus among leaders that there should be someone to keep watch over LA's oil production, the next potentially thorny issue becomes finding a person to fill it. Oil companies are hoping that having an expert in the oil industry in the position would mean that there would be someone on-hand who could field complaints from residents and filter out the phony ones. "[T]he city could turn to them and say, 'Are these problems as bad as people say they are?'" a lawyer who reps oil companies and parties who get royalties from production tells the Times. Those who've been on the opposite end of oil drilling—residents and activists—say the position should be filled by someone who'd be looking out for the wellbeing of residents.
· L.A. leaders want someone overseeing oil operations in the city full time [LAT]
· Report: Oil Drilling Runs Rampant in LA's Poor, Dense, and Non-White Neighborhoods [Curbed LA]
· Los Angeles's Urban Oil Wells Are Terrifyingly Under-Monitored [Curbed LA]
· Mapping All 3,000 of Los Angeles's Active Oil Wells [Curbed LA]