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Oil Drilling in Los Angeles: A Story of Unequal Protections

Community Health Councils found low-income communities of color in the City of Los Angeles have fewer protections from the risks from local oil drilling operations than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.

This includes allowing drilling activities hundreds of feet closer to residences, fewer protective features like air monitoring or enclosed operations, and oil operations that have received many more regulatory violations and community complaints.

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Five key findings:



1)  Citywide activity occurs too close for comfort.

Citywide there are at least 17 sites with wells dangerously close to homes, schools, and other sensitive population centers. Of the 17 sites with wells within 1,500 feet of a sensitive population, the average separation was only 380 feet.

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2)  Low-income communities of color in the City of Los Angeles have fewer protections from the risks from local oil drilling operations than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.

Oil drilling was only allowed the Wilshire and West LA areas after strong precautions protecting surrounding neighbors were enacted. Protections include enclosing the entire site or drilling equipment, requiring a 24 hour hotline for complaints, and noise and air quality monitoring. Those precautions were not only not required in SLA and Wilmington, but also protections at those sites have weakened (i.e. requiring “buffer properties) or been ignored over time. 

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3) The protections for sites in South LA and Wilmington differ greatly from sites in more affluent Wilshire and West LA.

In the Wilshire and West LA area, all of the sites are either relatively far from homes or, if they are near homes, the operations are partially or completely enclosed. South LA and Wilmington sites are on average 260 to 315 feet closer to sensitive uses than oil sites in the West LA and Wilshire areas. At the West LA and Wilshire sites, there are two types of structures –outdoors and completely/partially enclosed structures. The outdoor sites are an average of 570 feet from homes. The enclosed sites, either entirely within a building or rigs and trucks enclosed, are on average 150 feet away from homes.

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4) South LA and Wilmington Sites had at least 54 more violations and 309 more complaints than their Wilshire and West LA counterparts.

27 violations were issued for the AllenCo site, 13 at the Warren E & P site, 8 at the Jefferson site, and 7 at the Murphy site. In comparison to the AllenCo site, the operations at the Warren E & P, Murphy, and Jefferson sites have far fewer violations. However, South LA and Wilmington sites have 4 to 13 more violations per site than Wilshire and West LA operations.

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5) Disparate protections are largely the result of decisions made by city officials.

While rendering their decisions for the Wilshire and West LA areas, Zoning Administrators noted the adjacent “quality” residences and enacted requirements that protected these residents to a greater degree than South La and Wilmington-area residents.

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