Fracking Los Angeles: What Life Is Like on the Country's Biggest Urban Oilfield
Gary Gless in his Baldwin Hills L.A. Neighborhood that sits next to the Inglewood Oil Field.
Photo Credit: Sabrina Artel
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The following is from Sabrina Artel's Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project. You can listen to the entire program here.
This unfortunately is not the premise of a new disaster movie in Hollywood, but a real-life, potentially threatening thriller that involves un-regulated and un-reported fracking in Los Angeles. More people are waking up to the threat of hydraulic fracturing and proposed drilling expansion in their yards in the city. Hollywood may be the most visible industry here but oil and gas exploration and production has been staging itself here too for many decades. This issue faces the entire Golden State.
Over 600 wells were hydraulically fractured in California in 2011 according to the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). In research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they report, "The state's failure to confront reality is hardly surprising, since the Division of Oil and Gas of the California Department of Conservation admits that it makes no attempt to monitor, track or regulate hydraulic fracturing in any way."
Imagine this, the extensive 300-acre Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, duck ponds, picnic benches, Little League field and hiking trails next to the 1,000 acre largest contiguous urban oilfield in the country that has proposed to increase its operations that include fracking. Then add millions of residents that are adjacent to and even abut the field who live in the Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills, Inglewood, Ladera Heights, Village Green and Culver City neighborhoods among others and the increasing debate and concern about these operations is understandable.
Neighborhood meetings, organizing, lawsuits and research have been done quietly for the last few years in neighborhoods confronted by the risks of drilling on their streets and close proximity to their homes. One volunteer group, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community (CCSC) has been a leader in researching the operations of the Inglewood Oil Field, currently leased by PXP, in order to access the health, air, water and property risks already felt by the community. In addition they have been litigating, organizing and educating through meetings, mailings and outreach.
The public benefit based Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community was co-founded by Margrit Cheesboro, Paul V. Ferrazzi and Gary Gless in 2008. The founders all live in the surrounding neighborhoods. Ferrazzi has lived in Culver City for 20 years. Ferrazzi states that he would like to see, "A fracking ban on the oil and gas industry in California implemented, if whole countries see the dangers of hydraulic fracturing surely Californians can see the common sense in not accepting anything less than a ban."
When I ask Ferrazzi about his concerns with the current operations by PXP on the Inglewood Oil site he said:
If allowed to hydraulically fracture in the zones they want to exploit the Nodular Shale (8300') and the Sentous (9000-10000') the significant risk and potential to cause an earthquake along the Newport-Inglewood fault. They have admitted they would be within 3200' feet of this major fault which is surrounded by other faulting. There are a number of wells they have already drilled through faults in Inglewood.
The projected plans to drill 100 wells by 2028 into and under residential Culver City at a depth of 10,000 feet horizontally drilled and more than likely hydraulically fractured. This plan also includes the need to drill under Ballona Creek (a recognized navigable waterway) which empties into the ocean at Playa del Rey.
Active oil wells are throughout the city and have become sites of entertainment and leisure, education like the contested Beverly Hills High School well, covered up by parking lots, housing developments, next to hospitals, shopping centers are such an embedded part of this industrial landscape of the city that it's easy to assume everything is safe while picnicking next to La Brea Tar Pits.