Oil Lobby Kills Assemblymember Holden’s Public Health Legislation

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Chris Holden’s legislation, Assembly Bill 3146, that would have created transparency measures on pollution from idle and abandoned oil and gas wells that are located in close proximity to homes and businesses, was killed by the oil lobby last week.

“Across California, there are thousands of families living nearby cancer causing, smog forming and global warming producing idle or abandoned oils wells,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “It’s frustrating when the public interest takes a back seat to the interest of a powerful lobby, especially when the most vulnerable communities are hit the hardest.”

There are about 30,000 idle or abandoned oil wells in California. In Los Angeles, a 2018 report by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health examined at LA County’s 1,850 inactive oil wells, found that many are often improperly abandoned, or left idle, which may result in communities being impacted by hydrogen sulfide and petroleum odors that can cause headaches, nosebleeds and nausea.

In 2016, two abandoned wells in Echo Park near Los Angeles were found leaking compounds in a densely populated disadvantaged community, forcing lengthy evacuations and exposures.

“Aliso Canyon shows what happens when wells get older and aren’t maintained - they leak and present a hazard for communities and first responders,” said Holden.  

Without a statewide policy, there is no certainty around how many idle or abandoned oil wells are leaking harmful pollutants, and how much, or the extent of the health impacts to surrounding communities.

“Idle and abandoned wells continue to be a source of pollution that endangers the health of communities and the environment across California,” said Tim O’Conner, Environmental Defense Fund’s California Oil and Gas Director. “Straightforward policies that increase the transparency over well pollution are a critical piece of the state’s effort to protect its citizens”

Holden’s legislation was voted down in the Assembly Floor with 30 “noes” and 13 “no votes recorded” yet no member in opposition to the legislation was willing to publicly voice their opposition.

“I’m disturbed that the oil industry would kill my legislation that simply solves a critical knowledge gap associated with these oil wells, and disappointed that so many of my colleagues were unwilling to stand up for vulnerable communities who are most impacted by the lack of action,” said Holden.