Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 14, 2023


Emily Jeffers, (510) 348-6958,

Lawsuit Challenges Long Beach Oil, Gas Drilling Plan

City Failed to Analyze Environmental, Public Health Risks

LOS ANGELES— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the city of Long Beach today for approving a five-year program to drill for oil and gas within city limits without conducting the required review intended to protect public health and the environment.

Long Beach drills for oil and gas on four artificial islands in Long Beach Harbor, typically producing more than 5 million barrels of oil and 2 billion cubic feet of gas per year.

The Center’s lawsuit asserts that Long Beach failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The law holds public agencies to strict environmental review requirements to ensure that affected communities get full information about a project’s harms and the right to participate in approval decisions. Long Beach has never completed an environmental review of any oil and gas operations, including for the plans in its recently approved five-year program.

“It’s outrageous that Long Beach has never conducted an environmental review of its oil and gas operations,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the Center. “California has a strong bedrock environmental and health protection law for good reason, and Long Beach has simply ignored it. The city needs to comply with the law and do its duty to protect Californians from oil and gas pollution.”

The 2023–28 Long Beach Program Plan authorizes drilling and injection to produce oil and gas. These activities create a host of well-documented environmental and health harms and risks, including oil spills, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land subsidence, harm to wildlife and habitat, water usage, and water pollution.

The plan projects the extraction of more than 26.2 million barrels of oil and 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas production and opens the door to other intensive oil field actions such as the use of enhanced oil recovery.

“Drilling for oil and gas is a dirty business, and people in Long Beach have the right to know what these operations are doing to their air and their health,” said Jeffers. “Long Beach claims to be moving toward a zero-carbon future, but the emissions that will come from this drilling are a huge carbon bomb that the city isn’t acknowledging.”

The aging oil and gas infrastructure in California, including Long Beach’s oil islands and pipelines, is especially vulnerable to rupture and oil spills. In the past several years, multiple oil spills have occurred in Southern California waters, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and harming local communities, the coastal ecosystem, endangered wildlife and the economy. In October 2021 a pipeline connecting a federal platform to shore in Long Beach ruptured, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific.

Many of the drilling activities authorized by the plan would occur within 3,200 feet of homes and community gathering sites. That radius would be protected under a health-and-safety buffer zone law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last year, but the law is now on hold pending an oil industry-backed referendum.

More than 30% of Long Beach’s population lives within 3,200 feet of operational wells, and studies have shown that living near oil and gas development results in higher rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, cancer and adverse birth outcomes. Long Beach and the surrounding area are already in frequent violation of air quality standards established under the Clean Air Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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