07 Dec California Drilling: Red Flags in the Golden State
The Culver City Council has been fighting for stronger protections for people and the environment in our 10% portion of the largest contiguous urban oil field in the U.S.: the Inglewood Oil Field. We’re in the process of drafting new regulations now.
Listen to this interview with KPPC reporter Molly Peterson on our new regulations.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. One million people live within a five mile radius of the field, which happens to lie atop an active fault line capable of producing a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.
Although the San Andreas Fault has the potential for a truly massive quake, it was the Newport-Inglewood Fault that delivered the most deadly earthquake in Los Angeles history. Its aftermath changed the way we live today.
In communities surrounding the 1,000 acre field, residents have come forward reporting cancer-clusters in their neighborhoods. Recently, residents came to our Council meeting with serious health concerns, based on very real tragedies: one was was a young girl who had just lost her mother to cancer, the other was a woman actively battling cancer, and who had lost several neighbors to cancer within the past four years. They live less that a half mile from the oil field – and they pleaded with us to enact stringent regulations to make our community safe.
While the oil field operator denies any harm has been done to surrounding communities, proclaiming the field as “the most stringently regulated urban oil field in California” the California Council on Science and Technology found significant weaknesses in the health study performed for the field, calling it “cursory” and “insufficient for establishing causality and has many major limitations” (p. 217, An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California, Vol. III, Ch. 4). To which the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which conducted the study, responded:
“The DPH Community Assessment was not designed to confirm whether oil drilling activities were associated with health outcomes”
(July 27 2015 – Response letter, emphasis added).
When a “health study” isn’t even designed to assess health outcomes – then what good is it? Surely, it cannot be used to proclaim the field operations are safe.
As Culver City moves forward through the process of better protecting our community with stronger regulations on drilling, every study and article on oil drilling I read raises more red flags. In a series of recent reports, including Liberty Hill’s analysis of Urban Oil Drilling in Los Angeles, drilling regulations are found to be inadequate and/or unenforced, leading to deadly consequences throughout the region and across the State.
LA Times reporter Julie Cart recently wrote about steam injection which, despite causing the horrific death of oil field worker David Taylor in Bakersfield, hasn’t prompted adequate regulations:
Afterward, California’s oil and gas regulators vowed to make urgent reforms. Taylor’s death would mean something, they said. It would be the beginning of a major overhaul of the way the oil companies conduct steam injection.
Four years later, however, there has been little progress.
The state has not acted, either by revising regulations or enforcing existing rules. Cyclic steaming was specifically exempted from the state’s new hydraulic fracking regulations.
(What happened to California regulators’ vows to make steam injections safer? Los Angeles Times, 11/29/2015)
The New York Times editorial team published an Op-Ed pointing out the inequities in drilling in Los Angeles, where drill sites in poorer and minority communities have not been afforded proper (if any) environmental review:
Pollutants from oil drilling, such as benzene, can cause cancer and other illnesses. Wilmington’s cancer rate is among the highest in Southern California. Residents there and in South Los Angeles have also experienced headaches, nosebleeds, asthma and eye irritation, among other health problems. Some have complained of drilling noise that goes on all night. One drilling site is less than 100 feet from a clinic serving people with HIV. Many wells are very close to playgrounds, homes or schools.
Environmental justice advocates have been saying for years that poor people and racial minorities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards around the country. Los Angeles appears to be a dramatic example of this problem.
(The Danger of Urban Oil Drilling , New York Times, 11/27/2015)
With the global backdrop of the Paris Climate Talks, and the recent State Legislature’s undermining of a plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions, Culver City may not be on the front page, but it is on the front lines of the fossil fuel fight.