October 9, 2017; Los Angeles Sentinel
Los Angeles may sometimes be called a city of stars, but it also a city of oil fields. A Community Health Councils report from 2015, for example, began, “The land of sunshine, celebrities, and world-famous beaches is also home to 5,000 active oil and gas wells. These wells are spread across 10 oil fields and 70 different sites embedded in neighborhoods, parks, and commercial districts throughout Los Angeles City.” The report includes this map of active wells in the city.
These oil wells pose major environmental hazards. Pastor Kevin Sauls of the Holman United Methodist Church notes that oil wells expose 600,000 Angelenos to harmful petrochemicals. “Most of these toxic wells, some 75 percent, are in Black and Brown communities in South L.A.,” Sauls adds.
One of these wells is AllenCo’s two-acre oil field (“Murphy Oil Field”). Located in the University Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, which is just southwest of downtown and home to Mount St. Mary’s University, the AllenCo facility has been shut down for four years now, but may soon reopen. The land is owned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has owned the site since it was donated to the Archdiocese in the 1950s by the late oil baron Edward Doheny.
AllenCo purchased drilling rights in 2009. Once purchased, AllenCo used hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid to unplug some of the wells. Within a year, production jumped more than 400 percent, from 4,178 barrels to 21,239 barrels in 2010. According to a Los Angeles Times account last year, “Around the same time, neighbors began smelling a chemical odor in the streets and in their homes, and reported that they and their children were having headaches, recurring nosebleeds and bouts of dizziness,” leading to “260 complaints to air regulators between 2010 and 2013—up from just eight complaints from University Park in 2008–09.” Among the nearby neighbors of the drilling site are “a nursing home, a mental health care facility and an assisted-living center.” This map, drawn on 2008 government data and included in a 2015 Liberty Hill Foundation report, highlights just how dense development in the neighborhood surrounding the oil drilling site is.
Three years after the complaints led to the facility being shut down, AllenCo agreed in June 2016 to a $1.25 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles’ city attorney. Previously, it had also paid “fines and settlements totaling nearly $950,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South