Oil Lobby Kills Assemblymember Holden’s Public Health Legislation

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

PHOTO: South Pasadenan | Assembly member Chris Holden passes legislation to test drinking water for lead poisoning

“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.

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“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.


  1. If this pol knew what he was talking about, his bill or any other such attempt, would make more sense. Instead he is showing his ignorance as to how the 96 year old Commission (DOGGR) does its job regulating 60,000 plus oil wells and an equal amount of abandoned wells. The nonsense about contamination and affecting folks that live by (or moved in next to) older oil wells is just that; there is no evidence of harmful emissions from old abandoned wells, but there is plenty of anecdotes of a smelly situation if one of the old wells starts to leak. If this pol had actually studied the situation he would understand what causes a “leak” and how such is addressed. The LA Basin has more oil per square meter than any other petroliferous basin on the planet, including Saudi Arabia. Oil built Los Angeles and oil sands underlie most of the 500 sq mile basin. Sometimes the oil sands are shallow and natural seeps occur (think Wilshire Blvd near La Brea Tar Pits and how today oil seeps out under the street). The wells this guy referred to recently re-abandoned by the DOGGR were actually the earliest wells drilled back in the 1890’s and the plugging of those wells was primitive by today’s standards. What causes “leaks” is natural gas, which also has H2S associated with it (the smelly stuff) finding a way to the surface by a path of least resistance. Those are common issues and the State DOGGR has the resources and knowledge on how to deal with such when those events occur. It is sensible to leave the pols out of these issues, as they are essentially ignorant on the subject, nor do they care to learn due to politics. LA literally “floats” on ancient deposits and with over 27,000 feet of sedimentation just since the recent Miocene periods, and only about 5 – 8% of the original oil in place has been extracted. This situation creates an incredible energy source for LA, but recently it has been politically expedient to trash oil due 100% to politics which always is accompanied by lies and propaganda. The eco terrorists agendas are well known now and have nothing to do with health and safety. The State is a leader in regulatory oversight in the country due to decades of experience and those professional engineers and geologists do not need interference from politicians. If your house breaks a main under it, would you call the Sierra Club or a Councilman to come fix it or a plumber?