The flaws with new oil and gas proposals for Carson and Hermosa Beach

Saturday, March 1, 2014
Eva Cicoria

New oil and gas projects proposed for Carson and Hermost create the potential for spills, blow outs, and methane leaks, no to mention increased water demands and the effects of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. These effects and others are detailed in the Draft Environmental Impact Reports recently released for each project. Here's a synopsis of each report.


Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) is proposing to build and operate a new oil and gas facility over the Dominguez Oil Field at 1450-1480 Charles Willard Street in the City of Carson. The proposal includes drilling up to 200 wells from the six-acre site, mining oil reservoirs at depths of 4,000 to 13,500 feet with directional drilling. Oxy expects to produce 6,000 barrels per day of oil and 3 million standard cubic feet per day of natural gas. The project also includes an oil and gas processing facility, water treatment, water injection operations, slurry injection or disposal operations, an electrical connection, emergency flare, and shipping and pipeline facilities, all within a short distance of residences, Cal State Dominguez, and other businesses.

With all that, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Oxy proposal concludes that, of all the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) topic areas, noise is the only impact that would be significant. Really?

Thankfully, people like Tom Williams, Co-Chair of the Sierra Club's Fracking, Oil and Gas Task Force for the Angeles Chapter, have the technical background and the will to generously give their time to reviewing DEIRs and other filings for projects such as this to hold companies accountable, providing in depth comments and pointed questions to ensure that the purpose of the reports is achieved: to inform public agencies and the public generally of the significant environmental effects of a project before the project is approved.

The City of Carson held a public workshop to receive comments on the DEIR. About 250 people turned out, an overflow crowd for the city council chambers. Most of the people who spoke were opposed to the proposed project and pointed out flaws in the DEIR. The Palos Verdes-South Bay group submitted our own letter critical of the DEIR.

Project's objectives

The Oxy DEIR states that one of the objectives of the project is to "[e]ncourage development of local oil and gas resources to reduce dependence on foreign energy supplies." Yet the project as proposed fails at that--at least long term. The project is designed to deplete local oil and gas resources in the short term, without consideration for what that means regarding future dependence on foreign energy supplies and without consideration for what that means regarding the needs of future generations. When there are no oil and gas resources remaining, what then?

The DEIR concludes that the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the project will be insignificant. According to 98% of climatologists, there is a direct, causal relationship between extraction of these fuels and global climate change, yet Oxy contends that this project is insignificant when considered with all the other GHGs released globally.

When burned, the proposed 6,000 barrels of oil per day and 3 million cubic feet of natural gas per day extracted by Oxy will produce 2,739 metric tons per day of CO2. Theproject life is 50 years, so, over it will produce 109,500,000 barrels of oil and nearly 55 billion cubic feet of natural gas in that time-frame. That will result in the release of about 50 million tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the project. Since the lifetime of CO2 in the coupled atmospheric/ocean system is hundreds to thousands of years, this would be a significant cumulative addition to GHGs in the atmosphere.

Using scarce water

Oxy plans to use approximately 4,500 gallons per day of potable water to drill the first 10 wells. When combined with construction water use of 10,382 gallons per day, at least for some period, total water use per day will be 14,882 gallons. The DEIR says "adequate water supply. . . exist in the region." Yet drought conditions so severe the federal government recently promised over $150 million in aid to our state. The Daily Breeze reports that "[l]ess than 1 percent of the capacity of the 14 dams spread across Los Angeles County is available for release, according to data from the Department of Public Works."

This heavily populated area is already subject to high pollutant loads from freeway and heavy industrial activity. Residents are concerned that adding petroleum emissions to those already leaked from the existing oil field will be intolerable. There is also concern that drilling some of the 200 proposed wells may disrupt some of the 600 retired, capped wells in the area, causing contamination of aquifers or soils. Moreover, these impacts may be exacerbated by seismic activity from nearby faults.

The DEIR comment period runs through March 10, 2014 and the document is available for review on the City's website here.

Hermosa Beach

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released recently for the E&B Natural Resources proposal to develop an onshore oil and gas production facility that would use directional drilling to access oil and gas in the Torrance Oil Fields--the tidelands and upland areas. The project is designed to produce 8,000 barrels per day of crude oil and 2.5 million standard cubic feet per day of gas.

Currently, there is a ban on oil and gas development within the City of Hermosa Beach. A 2012 settlement agreement, however, requires the City to put the proposed project on the ballot for the residents to determine whether to roll back the moratorium.

Prior to the vote, the public is encouraged to get informed. The DEIR identifies the areas in which the project will generate "significant and unavoidable impacts", meaning that no matter what mitigation measures are implemented, the impact cannot be reduced to less than significant:

  • Aesthetics: views impacted by the 87-foot-tall drill rig and 110-foot-tall workover rig, glare, and night lighting on the rig;
  • Air Quality: odors, due to the proximity of the project to public spaces (within 20 feet of the sidewalks and within 55 feet of the Greenbelt), businesses (within 100 feet), and residences (within 160 feet);
  • Biology and Hydrology: spills and ruptures from the pipelines, whether from geologic hazards, mechanical failure, structural failure, corrosion, or human error during operations, could drain into soil or storm drain and impact the marine environment;
  • Land Use: incompatibility with adjacent open space and residential zoning;
  • Noise: construction and drilling activities;
  • Recreation: oil spills that reach the ocean and beaches;
  • Safety and Risk of Upset: potential for a blowout resulting from drilling into potentially pressurized areas within drilled reservoirs

The DEIR as well as a Health Impact Assessment and Cost Benefit Analysis are available for review on the City's website here. The website lists opportunities to comment on these reports. The comment period for the DEIR ends April 14, 2014. It is currently anticipated that a measure asking Hermosa Beach residents whether to retain the ban on oil drilling in Hermosa Beach or allow the E&B project to proceed will be placed on the ballot in November 2014.

Reprinted from the Angeles Chapter's Palos Verdes-South Bay Group newsletter Foggy View.



Get off of fossil fuels and quit ruining the environment!!! Greed is not good!!!

If every inch of Los Angeles is for sale to developers, it will soon be like a third world country!

How can we possibly be thinking about a non-essential use of greater and greater amounts of potable water during the worst drought in Cal history? Seems especially ironic that the goal is to produce more of the fuels that have led to climate change and, possibly, the drought itself. The state should be promoting less water usage , not more.

First published (as separate articles) in the March issue of the Foggy View, the newsletter of the Palos Verdes-South Bay group. http://angeles.sierraclub.org/pvsb/foggy-view.asp

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