Environment & Science

Oil company to withdraw application for expansion in South LA neighborhood

Houses sit less than an armspan away from the fenceline for the Jefferson Drill Site, along Budlong Avenue. Neighbors to the Freeport McMoRan-operated site say they're concerned about the activities underway at the Jefferson site.
Houses sit less than an armspan away from the fenceline for the Jefferson Drill Site, along Budlong Avenue. Neighbors to the Freeport McMoRan-operated site say they're concerned about the activities underway at the Jefferson site.
Molly Peterson/KPCC

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The oil company Freeport McMoran is planning to withdraw its application to expand its drilling and extraction operations at a drill site in L.A.'s Jefferson Park neighorbood, the company confirmed  Thursday.

In an email, company spokesman Eric Kinneberg wrote that Freeport intends "to submit a letter prior to the January 26th close of the public comment period formally withdrawing the application. The decision to withdraw the application was prompted primarily in response to the steep decline in commodity prices. Withdrawal of the application will not affect normal daily production operations which will continue consistent with how the facility has been safely operated for over 50 years."  

Residents living near the site in the 1300 block of West Jefferson Boulevard cheered the decision. “This is a major victory," said Brett Shears, a member of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council.

But Shears and others said it would not end their quest to stop all drilling and extraction activities at the facility.

“Freeport’s application withdrawal delays their day of reckoning with residents, but it doesn’t deter it,” said Richard Parks, a board member for the Redeemer Community Partnership, a nonprofit community development corporation in the area.

The news comes nearly two months after a contentious public hearing before a zoning administrator with the Los Angeles Planning Department.

Freeport had applied to re-drill one production well, re-drill one waste water injection well, and drill one new injection well at the Jefferson site. The property is home to 34 active wells now, which in October of last year together produced more than 10 billion barrels of oil and 14 million cubic feet of gas, according to data from the state Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. 

In November, neighbors of the site demanded an environmental impact study of Freeport’s operations, arguing that they needed a comprehensive assessment of noise and risks to air and water quality. For its part, Freeport’s representatives argued that the activities underway were essentially the same as what the city first permitted in 1965, and that reworking a well would be a short-term activity.

Parks says the city should address the residents concerns. “The city now has a duty to hold Freeport accountable, to sanction them for past violations, and to revoke a conditional use permit that’s fundamentally incompatible with the neighborhood,” he said.  

This story has been updated to include neighborhood reaction.