State and local regulators were asleep at the wheel when Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP) embarked on a huge expansion of oil drilling operations in the Baldwin Hills community south of Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported yesterday. According to the AP article, PXP’s push for increased oil drilling in 2005 was “helped along by county and state regulators who determined that the additional wells didn't require any environmental review.” This report comes on the heels of last month’s troubling revelation that a former Los Angeles County supervisor may have pressured County staff to increase the number of oil wells PXP would be allowed to drill over the next twenty years.
I’ve blogged before about this alarming situation and the dangers that local residents face every day. Oil drilling involves the release of toxic chemicals that can cause chronic health problems and even cancer. There already are hundreds of active oil wells in the Baldwin Hills, in the middle of one of the most densely populated parts of L.A., and hundreds more are on their way. And now we know that the regulators with oversight of the oil field were not doing their job. It’s clear that the community needs greater protections. That’s why NRDC and others sued the County in 2008 for more effective health and safety regulations on the oil field. We will continue to fight in court, and we welcome articles and reports like these to keep the issues in the spotlight as we work toward a resolution that will protect the community’s health and well-being.