Guess what? If you live anywhere near the 1,000-acre Inglewood oil field -- in Culver Crest, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Vista, Ladera Heights, Windsor Hills, Village Green or anywhere around there -- your home is bordering the largest urban oil field in America.
Cool, right? It's run by giant Texas oil company Plains Exploration & Production (PXP), and from above, it looks like a big wormy amoeba thing that wants to eat your brain.
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Up to now, PXP has maintained a relatively clean reputation here in Los Angeles. The company had one major spill at its Montebello property last year, and a bit of a fume disaster in 2006, but nothing that really set the Erin Brockoviches reeling.
However, that might just be because no one's watching.
Big Oil's hot, sketchy new method of bringing up hard-to-reach resources -- "fracking," or blasting random chemicals into the ground to draw every last drop of oil from the shale -- has gone largely unregulated by state and local officials.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that California is becoming the brave new frontier for fracking:
The procedure has drawn the greatest attention in the Rocky Mountain West and Northeast, where states have debated moratoriums to develop regulations after toxic chemicals were found in nearby drinking water. But a quieter battle is being waged in the Golden State, which could be a candidate for increased "fracking" because of its unique geology. Last year, the energy industry scuttled a bill that would have enlisted California in the growing ranks of states that require companies to disclose what they put into the ground. At least nine states have such guidelines.
Community Health Councils here in Los Angeles was one of five plaintiffs (including the Culver City municipal government) that won a settlement last summer forcing PXP to conduct a study on the effects of its drilling practices by July 2012.
The oil company has claimed that it's not using the same type of "wet gas" fracking that has terrorized the East Coast the last few months. But Lark Galloway-Gilliam, executive director of Community Health Councils, says there is no way to know what they're doing, because California and L.A. County's environmental regulations are so lax.
Galloway-Gilliam believes oil executives "were splitting hairs on what they were calling fracking." As in, they could have been utilizing some similar blasting process and naming it something else.
And she says they've certainly "made it clear they do want to do fracking."
But until the study comes out this summer, the underground goings-on at the Inglewood oil field remain a mystery. (And even then, who knows how loyal the firm that PXP hired to conduct the study will stay to its employer -- such is always the problem with in-house reviews.)
The 1 million residents in the surrounding area need to know, "What kind of ripple effect is there?" says Galloway-Gilliam. "And in terms of groundwater, what happens with the water that is pushed into the ground?"
From Intersections South L.A.:
"People are running and exercising right next to active drilling without even realizing it," says [nearby resident] Ronda Brown. She thinks there needs to be better signage within the recreation area warning people of the proximity of the oil field. "I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to go there, but they do have a right to be better informed."
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That's really the biggest concern here: We're all clueless to the toxins that could be trickling off our monster next-door neighbor.
That's why over 100 concerned citizens packed into a community meeting on the mysterious oil field early last week. For more on the meeting, and what you can do going forward, see this exhaustive update on the National Resources Defense Council's staff blog. In which the California State Department of Conservation's Jason Marshall totally implies we're getting fracked over by PXP:
Mr. Marshall acknowledged that fracking has been occurring in California for at least the last thirty years; confirmed that DOGGR does not know where all the fracked wells are located; and admitted that there is no monitoring system in California for fracking.