East Contra Costa city bans oil and gas drilling, production, exploration

Antioch this week banned future oil and gas drilling, production and exploration operations.

The city council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to amend its municipal code, removing permitted uses in the city’s southern “heavy industrial” area and designated portions of the nearby Sand Creek focus area.

There are currently no drilling operations or permitted uses in these areas and the most recent applicant, Sunset Exploration Inc., withdrew its request for a permit in May 2020.

“What it will do is that it will provide no oil and gas drilling within the city, with no apparent immediate impact on operations at this time,” City Attorney Thomas Smith said.

Sunset Exploration Inc. has been drilling for crude since 2018 not far on Deer Valley Road, a mile south of Antioch and currently operates two wells, but has permits for five. It has partnered with Indiana-based Powerdrive Oil & Gas on proposed exploratory oil drilling at nearby unincorporated Brentwood, about a mile from existing wells, but that stalled with Contra Costa County, which now requires additional environmental review. Is.

To the south, Alameda County banned fracking in 2016, and it revoked a conditional use permit for its operating wells, spelling the end of oil drilling in July of 2018. But Contra Costa County has more than 15 productive oil and gas wells, mostly in unincorporated fields and 656 non-producing ones.

Environmentalists and residents are fighting against these wells and have spoken in favor of a proposed Antioch ordinance that would stop oil drilling in the city.

Shoshanna Wexler of Sunflower Alliance said, “I want to thank you all for your strong leadership and for setting a really important example for all Eastern County cities built on or near the old Brentwood oil and gas field. ” Pro-renewable-energy environmental group, said. “As extensive medical research shows us, human health and hydrocarbons simply do not mix and fossil fuel extraction anywhere on this planet makes a habitable future impossible.”

Antioch resident Harry Thurston, who requested changes to the municipal code to permanently ban oil and gas drilling, said the action would help protect the health and well-being of Antioch residents.

“This is the right action in this time of global environmental crisis,” he said. “…This action will send a message that an Eastern County city opposes oil and gas drilling, extraction and transportation within its city limits and within Contra Costa County.”

Opponent Dr. Jeffrey Mann said that the scientific community has studied the health effects of living near oil and gas drilling from air pollution generated and determined that it can cause chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, among other issues. Can cause cancer and dementia.

“It is imperative that we listen once again to the science on this topic of health damage from oil and gas drilling, as we navigate the pandemic, the COVID pandemic,” he said. “And as the city council, you can help frontline workers in Antioch to protect the health of Antioch’s citizens by voting to ban oil and gas drilling and exploration.”

Stella Lynn, a local high school student, said she was disappointed the county had allowed drilling in unincorporated Brentwood.

“All my classmates and I are apprehensive about the future,” she said. “And we know that cities need to move away from fossil fuels in order to have any hope of restoring a prosperous future.”

Councilwoman Monica Wilson went on to approve the ordinance, but before the vote, Councilman Mike Barbanica said that no opposition existed, although she received feedback after council’s previous discussion on the matter.

“I just wanted to know that any person who could have been affected by this, who has land which could have been affected, did not show up. … So, to me, that says a lot in support of it.”

Arrived after the meeting, Bob Nunn of Sunset Exploration Inc. said he withdrew his company’s application in 2020 because he already had an application for a permit in the unincorporated Brentwood county with the south.

“There was no need to pursue both and so we chose just one in the county because it is far from development and isolated and can be seen and I didn’t need to do both,” he said.

The nuns, who had permission to conduct exploratory drilling in Antioch and dried up and closed in 2007, said the city already had a de facto moratorium because no one wanted to drill for oil there.

He also criticized those who raided against oil and gas drilling “without understanding the implications of what they are trying to do”.

“Everyone who went to Antioch to complain about the closure of oil and gas exploration is using the product and telling me to stop,” he said. “… these people didn’t pay attention to Econ 101. If you want to reduce demand, and we short supply.”