County supervisors approve new rules on drilling at Inglewood Oil Field

Los Angeles County supervisors have approved new rules that limit operations at the Inglewood Oil Field. They voted after hundreds of people showed up at the downtown L.A. meeting to ask for more time and stricter standards. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports.

Molly Peterson: The vote gives L.A. County the power to monitor operations, cap new wells, and limit noise and pollution at the oil field. The county's never done that in 84 years of drilling. But some neighbors of the Inglewood Oil Field, like homeowner and activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, urged the board to delay action a little longer.

Earl Hutchinson: These are homeowners, these are tenants, that live in your neighborhood. So we are imploring you, we are pleading with you, take a little bit more time. Further study. It's still needed. That is the will of the people.

Peterson: The people came from Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills, View Crest, and Culver Crest. Many had tied green cloth bands around their arms. Neighborhood groups contend that drilling presents health risks and geologic hazards.

They worry that the county's new rules won't protect against those problems. But Supervisor Yvonne Burke told resident Mark Jay Salkin that the county's conducted an extensive public review.

Yvonne Burke: We've made changes in order to meet their concerns. This has been a two year process!
Mark Jay Salkin: Supervisor Burke, you're operating from a position of fear of lawsuits, fear of making a mistake. The mistake you're going to make is not allowing the community's wishes to be heard.

Peterson: Burke urged the board to act quickly; the county's ban on new and deeper drilling has expired, and the company working the fields, Plains Exploration, can ask the state at any time for more wells.

Burke: In the long run, it's going to be better for everyone.

Peterson: Burke said the rules aren't set in stone – they come up for review in three years. Plains Exploration's Steve Rusch told the supervisors he thinks they're tough.

Steve Rusch So what we're agreeing to is significant. This is something to stand proud of.

Peterson: Supervisor Burke said she was proud to pass the rules, as she leaves office at the end of the year.