Approximately 60 people packed the on Wednesday for the second in a series of community meetings regarding drilling in the Inglewood Oil Field in Baldwin Hills. Parts of the field fall within Culver City’s borders and adjoin and the Culver Crest.
The meeting, which Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office and the Community Advisory Council co-hosted, addressed residents’ growing concerns about drilling in the field.
In a question and answer session with key players, residents showed their disquiet on a range of issues, from the field’s stench, to excess noise due to drilling, to health worries.
Ridley-Thomas also gave attendees an update on a that aims to halt drilling in the field until the county adopts more stringent regulations. The county has tried to settle the two-year-old suit, to no avail.
“It’s our health here and people are not asking for anything unreasonable,” said resident Ronnie Kayne. “We want to live in a healthy environment.”
PXP representative Lisa Paillet attended the meeting but—citing the ongoing litigation, declined to comment—except to say the company “continues to be in compliance.”
Until recently, it seemed oil drilling had started to become a thing of the past in Baldwin Hills, and Culver City. Residents had even approved a bond to purchase some of the oil fields and to turn them into a two-square mile park that would be linked by a bridge over La Cienega Boulevard.
However that changed when, using 3-D imaging, PXP found new oil and water injection sites, allowing the company to collect oil in more remote spots. In 2003, PXP unearthed a 65 percent-untapped oil and gas reservoir underneath Culver City extending out to Venice Boulevard.
Two years later, the company applied for permission from Culver City to drill six more wells under Ballona Creek and a number of single family homes in the area.
Residents say the increased drilling has polluted the air, and noxious fumes sometimes interrupt their sleep.
But not until two back-to-back incidents in 2006 did the community take action.
Noxious fumes from the Inglewood Oil Fields led to the evacuation of dozens of people, and affected more than 500 homes in January. Less than two months later, in February, a similar incident occurred.
The County moved to adopt a moratorium on new well drilling in PXP's Inglewood Oil Fields operations through 2008. However, with the moratorium set to expire, PXP submitted documents intended to regulate oil drilling and production activities in Baldwin Hills, which was called the Baldwin Community Standards District.
The county accepted this document, and allowed PXP to resume drilling operations.
In November 2008 however, the Natural Resource Defense Council, in conjunction with the Community Health Councils, filed one of four class action lawsuits against PXP and Los Angeles County.
The suit alleges the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it failed to conduct an adequate environmental impact report before adopting the CSD. The suit aims to force the county to develop more stringent drilling standards and halt the work on the planned 600 oil wells.
The suit reached a stalemate in December when PXP essentially walked away from negotiations.
If matters don’t get resolved at a meeting scheduled for Friday, the parties will head to court March 29, Ridley-Thomas said at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the county still has the option to draft an ordinance that would impose tougher drilling standards on PXP.
In August 2009, County Supervisors approved a measure directing the Planning Commission to review and amend the CSD. To date, the commission has yet to take action on the measure, angering some residents.
However, county officials—including Ridley-Thomas—have on a number of occasions they stand more likely to adopt the strongest possible standards through a settlement, rather than an ordinance.
“We believe a settlement will bring about the best results,” said Director of Regional Planning Richard Bruckner. “We also believe the settlement will be much more inclusive.”
He added that adopting an ordinance might open up the floodgates for PXP to sue the county if the company deems the CSD unfair, and “We could end up right where we are today.”
It remains unclear exactly which standards would be adopted in a possible settlement, as confidentiality agreements have blocked negotiations from public view.
Ridley-Thomas said he hoped to remedy this by getting all parties involved in the suit to waive these agreements. The supervisor also assured attendees that all parties want to reach an acceptable settlement in a timely manner.
“While there is more work to be done, I do believe much hard work has commenced.”
Addressing concerns over excess fumes emanating from the field, Mohsen Nazemi, deputy executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said his agency has put PXP on a “hot list” for more frequent monitoring.
The company received no notices of violation in 2009, but got slapped with three in 2010, which it addressed in a timely fashion, Nazemi said.
Residents like Tony Camarella say they just want to see the issue resolved, and soon.
“It’s our lives,” he said.
Ridley-Thomas said he plans to host a third community meeting on the issue next month. The time, date, and location will be announced at a later date.