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Investigation: The Clean Up Costs That Come With LA’s Deserted Oil Wells

An oil well in Signal Hill, California.
An oil well in Signal Hill, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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At one point, Los Angeles had a booming oil industry. But it has been steadily declining for some time now. According to an analysis from the Center for Public Integrity and the L.A. Times, nearly 1,000 wells throughout the city have been deserted. 

The investigative piece, by journalist Mark Olalde, dives into the toxic legacy of idled oil wells. It’s a problem that could cost taxpayers a hefty sum, but the issues go beyond financial costs. Residents’ health is also at risk, with the potential of contaminated water supplies and toxic fumes. Industry representatives have defended their efforts to clean up abandoned oil wells and the state has passed legislation as an attempt to help, but is it enough?

Today on AirTalk, Larry sits down with Olalde to discuss the city’s old oil wells, what’s currently being done to clean them up and what could happen in the future as the industry continues to dry up. If you have thoughts, join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722.


Mark Olalde, journalist who wrote the investigative piece in collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity and the L.A. Times; he’s currently the environment reporter for the Desert Sun; he tweets @MarkOlalde