LOS ANGELES — As the state moves away from fossil fuel use, the City of Signal Hill is now faced with deciding whether to follow the state’s path or approve a permit allowing the Signal Hill Petroleum company to continue operating and expanding its oil and gas operations in the community.. 

What You Need To Know

  • Signal Hill Petroleum is requesting a 20 year 'conditional use permit' extension to continue operating in the seven drill sites found across the city 
  • Many residents and community advocates have raised opposition to the permit extension given a USC study shows exposure to air pollutants from oil and gas operations pose a health risk
  • The Signal Hill City Council is expected to make a final decision on this permit closer to September, two months before Californians vote on regulations for new wells
  • Residents have until June 24th to provide public comment to the city on the project 

With about 400 oil wells between Signal Hill and Long Beach, the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) would allow those in Signal Hill to continue operating until 2042. It would also enable the company to drill up to 46 new oil wells within the seven drill sites across the city throughout those 20 years. 

The Signal Hill Petroleum company has had the Conditional Use Permit for the seven drill sites located in the city since 1998. If approved, it would be the longest permit the city has given the company since then, with previous ones ranging from six months to 10 years. 

During a public hearing to discuss the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) the city commissioned from Catalyst Environmental Solutions, Community Development Director Colleen Doan said the city has been looking into this request for years. 

"All this time there's been shorter terms because they've been wanting to have a long year terms, and we weren't ready yet. We didn't have the EIR, we didn't have the staff, we were building our oil and gas code, all kinds of reasons," said Doan. 

At that same hearing, many concerned community members and environmental advocates said they don't want to see another permit granted and raised health concerns over this permit extension request. 

study by USC's Equity Research Institute found proximity to oil and gas extraction sites pose health risks such as asthma, sore throats and eye irritation from exposure to air pollutants.

A draft of the EIR the city commissioned showed that the report found that health risks were all within the state's safety standard threshold. 

"The city found that the impacts would either be less than significant or less insignificant with mitigation. This means that the results of the analysis show the impacts would be below significance thresholds for each resource category," said Megan Schwartz, Director of Environmental Regulatory Compliance & Permitting at Catalyst Environmental Solutions. 

In the project report, the city said its objective is to "respond to SHP's request for a CUP extension, determine an appropriate duration for the CUP term and either approve, approve with conditions, or revoke the CUP."

Spectrum News contacted Signal Hill Petroleum, who said they had no comment. 

Other community members who attended the city's public hearing also questioned how much the city and community members financially benefited from having the company continue its operations. 

According to a City of Signal Hill spokesperson, the city receives $300,000, or approximately 1% of its general fund, from the barrel tax, which is paid by all oil-producing companies in the city, including Signal Hill Petroleum. 

The planning commission must first approve the permit and then get final approval from the City Council. A tentative timeline expects that to come closer to September. 


That means the City Council is expected to vote on this permit months before all Californians vote on SB1137 to decide if new oil and gas wells can be within 3,200 feet of a 'Protective Health Zone,' which includes homes, schools, and hospitals. 

All seven sites in the city's CUP extension request are within that distance from a protective health zone.

"If the voters vote yes, then Senate Bill 1137 will become law. CalGEM will not approve any new wells regardless of what decision the city makes. If the voters vote no, then there will be no change to state oil and gas regulations except as a regular deal," said Schwartz. 

This will be the first time the bill is on the ballot. After initially passing in 2022, it was suspended when opponents of the bill initiated and qualified for a referendum challenge. 

Residents hoping this permit is not granted are also asking the city to wait to decide until after the elections. In the meantime, those who want to voice their opinion have until June 24th to submit their public comment to Colleen Doan.