The City Council of Carson, California has unanimously (by 5-0 vote) approved a moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling within its city limits.  The moratorium is set to last 45 days for now, and the City Council will consider a one-year ban on any new drilling after those 45 days are up.

The reasoning behind this ban is particularly bizarre in that the proponents’ original grounds for seeking it (the use of hydraulic fracturing in connection with one particularly large project) was voluntarily removed from the operator’s drilling plans.  In 2012, Occidental Petroleum proposed a large project in the Dominguez Oil Field – where oil and gas drilling has taken place for years – and in the initial proposal, Occidental Petroleum proposed hydraulic fracturing techniques in order to optimize recovery of hydrocarbons.  However, after drilling two test wells in the area, Occidental Petroleum determined that hydraulic fracturing would not increase production in an effective way, and decided to withdraw hydraulic fracturing from the scope of the project.

Needless to say, project opponents sought the moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in hopes of stopping any use of hydraulic fracturing in the Dominguez Oil Field (even though Occidental had determined it would not use the technique).   Even after hydraulic fracturing was no longer part of the proposed project, the City Council went ahead and enacted the broad-brush ban the opponents sought.

Governor Jerry Brown has declined to impose a state-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, and strongly supported the passage of SB 4 in 2013, which created the most comprehensive and strict regulatory scheme on hydraulic fracturing in the United States.  However, as noted in our March 3, 2014 post, Los Angeles was the first oil-producing city in California to ban hydraulic fracturing since the passage of SB 4, and now Carson has taken that a step further.