Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, Washington; and other cities across America are passing ordinances that prevent the fossil fuel industry from building or expanding fossil fuel operations within their municipalities. These laws, typically zoning or land use ordinances, predominantly target fossil fuel storage and transport, oil and gas exploration and development, and new export facilities for coal, oil, gas, and their derivatives. Some of these restrictions take the form of temporary moratoriums (urgency measures), such as in Hoquiam, Washington; Broomfield, Colorado; and Vancouver, Washington. These moratoriums are often renewed before long term policies are adopted. Cities can utilize the time periods created by these moratoriums to research the effects of banning new fossil fuel facilities or to draft new zoning regulations. It should be noted that some cities are also passing ordinances that phase out existing operations, with Los Angeles and Richmond, California representative of those cities acting to do so.
One of the most ambitious examples of new zoning ordinances was initiated by Los Angeles County in 2021. The proposed ordinance banned new oil and gas wells and reclassified them as non-conforming land uses. This ordinance was approved by the county in October of 2022. In December of the same year, the City of Los Angeles adopted a similar ban on new oil and gas wells and an ambitious plan to phase out existing wells over the next 20 years. Public health and environmental justice concerns were the driving forces behind this decision by the LA City Council. The ordinance became effective in January of 2023. This vote came after years of resident complaints of poor air quality, which was affecting the health and safety of community members. Over 5,000 active drilling sites all across Los Angeles will shut down over the next two decades in accordance with the city’s comprehensive plan. Additionally, the LA City plan includes guidance on helping oil industry workers transition to jobs in renewable energy. The ban was presented to the public as a way to curb the social injustices that have occurred from the emissions and environmental degradation directly related to the operation of oil and gas wells and which disproportionately affect under-resourced and under-represented communities.
Many temporary moratoriums and zoning ordinances have been passed by clearly showing the detrimental effects created by fossil fuels for the general public, particularly in LA. The most commonly effective justification for these ordinances is concern over public health in respect to air pollution, water contamination, and the safety of local workers and nearby communities. Depending on the intensity of opposition posed by fossil fuel companies and their allies, the process of amending or creating a zoning ordinance has historically taken between six months and six years.
Goal: Restrict fossil fuel infrastructure development (industrial scale facilities), e.g., drilling, refining, processing, storage, shipping.
- Improved air quality
- Net reductions in GHG emissions
- Diminished size, capacity, and number of fossil fuel processing plants
Time to Implement:
- Varies from a few months to a few years
Baltimore MD Zoning Ordinance Prohibiting Crude Oil Terminals (read attachment 8, page 4)
Portland adopts limits on fossil fuel terminals (news article)
Santa Cruz County CA General Plan amendment that “Prohibits Oil and Gas Exploration and Development” (See Pg 3 to 6)
Broomfield CO Ordinance Regarding Oil and Gas Land Use Regulations, Ordinance No. 214 (see pgs 3-5)
Richmond CA Zoning and Subdivision Regulations, Article 15.04.615, which prohibits “the Storage and Handling of Coal and Petroleum Coke”
Oil and Gas Drilling Ordinance, City of Los Angeles (December 2022)
Los Angeles County Ordinance to remove the exemption of oil and gas wells from Noise Control and Title 22 Planning and Zoning, to prohibit new wells and production facilities, and designate existing wells and facilities as nonconforming land uses (January 2023)
California Government Code which allows cities to adopt “urgency measures” that temporarily prohibit “any uses that may be in conflict with a contemplated general plan, specific plan, or zoning proposal” that is being considered.
Victory! Baltimore Prohibits Crude Oil Terminal
Fossil Fuel Facilities in Focus in Vancouver (Report that declares Vancouver’s temporary moratorium will be made permanent)
Community groups celebrate passage of strong fossil fuel terminal ban in Vancouver
Maine pipeline company drops lawsuit over city law that blocked oil export
SAFE (Stand Against Fossil Fuel Expansion) Cities: Protection from fossil fuel infrastructure
Stand.earth compilation of temporary and permanent restrictions on new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure
A Decade of Successes Against Fossil Fuel Export Projects in Cascadia
Los Angeles County votes to support phase out oil and gas drilling (September 2021)
L.A. County Board Approves Ordinance to Phase Out Oil Wells (October 2022)
LA’s long, troubled history with urban oil drilling is nearing and end (January 2023)
Baltimore City Council Member & Bill Sponsor
100 Holliday Street, Room 513
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
FAX: (410) 347-0547
Supervising Planner, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability,
City of Portland
1900 SW 4th Avenue,
Portland, OR 97201
General Zoning Inquiries
Santa Cruz County Planning Department
701 Ocean Street 4TH Floor,
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Senior City Planner, Los Angeles City Planning