Former County Supervisor Pressured Planning Staff To Allow Expanded Oil Drilling in L.A.’s Backyards

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I’ve blogged before about a massive proposed expansion of oil drilling operations in the Baldwin Hills area of south Los Angeles, where more than a million people live within a few miles of oil operations that spew toxic substances known to cause health problems.  NRDC and several other groups filed lawsuits to fight for more effective health and safety regulations on the oil field, and have been litigating vigorously since 2008.  Now, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that in 2008, then-County Supervisor Yvonne Burke, in whose district the oil field was located, may have pressured County staff to increase the number of wells the oil company would be allowed to drill over the next twenty years.

To quote the LAT, a recent audit released by Los Angeles County officials found that the Board of Supervisors often uses behind-the-scenes levers to control the inner workings of the County’s Regional Planning Department, and that former Supervisor Burke’s planning deputy, Mike Bohlke, "pressured department staffers to increase their recommended cap for the number of wells eligible for drilling in the Inglewood oil fields before it reached the supervisors for a vote in public. When the staffers suggested more community input first, he wrote ‘Enough is Enough … !!!!!’ in an e-mail to top department officials, the report said.”

We’ve been concerned all along about how this vast expansion of drilling would affect the health and safety of the surrounding communities.  Opinions differ on whether the oil field regulations are effective enough – the County thinks they are, we don’t.  But I don’t think anyone would disagree that political interference should not be allowed to compromise the health of the community.