Culver City Observer -

Council Extends Oil Drilling Moratorium-It Will Last 10 More Months


October 7, 2009

The Culver City Council voted Monday night in favor of an interim ordinance to extend the temporary moratorium concerning land use for oil drilling in Culver City. A four-fifths vote was required for passage, but all five Council members gave the ordinance the green light.

The Council had adopted an ordinance on August 24 that established a 45-day moratorium on the use of land for the drilling, re-drilling, or deepening of “any wells within the jurisdiction of the City of Culver City that are associated with oil and/or gas operations and declaring the urgency thereof.” This ordinance was not designed to put an end to oil drilling, but rather to allow the City time to review, study, and revise laws, rules, procedures, and fees related to oil and/or gas operations.

However, PXP filed a lawsuit against Culver City on Sept. 21, stating “PXP believes that Culver City’s moratorium has no basis in law or fact.”

The ordinance would have expired on October 8, but the interim ordinance extends the moratorium for an additional 10 months and 15 days, in order to “preserve the public health, safety, and welfare.”

During the public comment session held prior to the vote, the Council heard from a representative from PXP (Plains Exploration Development Company), the company at the center of the oil drilling controversy, who stated that he was “disappointed” that City staff had brought the new ordinance before the Council, and that “justification for the moratorium is baseless and we believe it is illegal.”

Also sounding strong opposition to the moratorium extension was School Board candidate Robert Zirgulis, who likened the Council’s support of the ordinance to Laurel and Hardy’s catch-phrase “Another fine mess.”

“If it’s a public safety problem, why not shut down existing wells?” Zirgulis commented, adding that he has “been an environmentalist since the 1970s,” and that he seems to “have the same passion for the environment as a lot of others-but I try to keep an open mind.”

Other speakers, however, supported the moratorium and extension, including a representative from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Culver Crest neighborhood activist Suzanne DeBenedittis, who exclaimed “Shame on PXP for trying to intimidate us!”

Mayor Andrew Weisman summed up the Council’s sentiments with his comment: “This is not a Council looking to stop oil drilling. What we are looking to do is create an environmentally adequate ordinance that protects the citizens of Culver City.” He noted that the extension would give the City time to consult experts, get public input, and “strike a balance between the needs of the oil company to drill safely, against the interests of the community in seeing that welfare and safety is preserved.”

In other actions, the Council also adopted a resolution approving a side-letter agreement between the City of Culver City and the Culver City Management Group, in regard to the deferral of a four per cent salary adjustment for executive management. A presentation on the Budget Review for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 was postponed to the next City Council meeting on October 12.


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