Fri, Jul

Aliso Canyon Oil Wells! Is Anybody Listening?

JUST SAYIN’-Last week I had the opportunity to attend a meeting on expanding current … and adding to … oil wells in
Aliso Canyon, an area just beyond a relatively new Porter Ranch community in the San Fernando Valley.  The concern drew so much attention from the residents that the multi-purpose room at the school where the meeting was held was packed—in fact, standing room only! 

The event was hosted by the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council during which a panel of experts made presentations followed by questions and answers.  Among those at the dais were a representative from Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office and Ralph Combs, the grandson of the founder of the The Termo Company. 

Many of us in the audience were enraged when the Valley Deputy for Antonovich stated emphatically that any discussion of fracking issues could not be part of the forum.  The protest to that response was so passionate that the panel and NC relented and then allowed the proffering of any points that were of interest to the attendees.  The audience had come during the dinner hour, after all, to be able to address this issue that so directly affected their greater neighborhood.  

What is more, there were tangential issues beyond fracking that also could not be ignored—waste-water dumping, injection wells, acidizing, tar muds, and other practices relevant to oil well preparation, extraction, and ongoing maintenance. 

The Deputy’s statement made the rest of us very skeptical about the prevailing attitude coming from Antonovich who has a relationship with Termo and is on the Board of the AQMD.   Conflict of interest, anyone? 

Termo has been in the area since 1989 and presently has 18 oil wells there but is asking to expand some of them and add 12 new wells over the next 6 years.  At a time when we are being asked to be off fossil fuel over the next few years, such a request is certainly counter-intuitive. 

Because the oil field in question is in unincorporated territory and therefore under the governance of the LA County Board of Supervisors, it will fall to the Board to make an informed and sage decision affecting our future. 

Already there have been far too numerous cases of people being affected by the odor coming from the wells, the incidence of migraine headaches, nose bleeds, increased occurrences of asthma and other bronchial ailments (some of which can lead to heart problems)—many of the affected are mere school children let alone pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly. 

Mr. Combs offered a sincere presentation but there were inconsistencies.  It was brought to his attention that his company is not doing much to help the communities near where the wells are located.  One gentleman in the audience read (from an earlier article) a quote from Mr. Combs himself, which stated unequivocally that it is a mission and goal of his company with regard to  his field in the Long Beach area to make substantial contributions to improve schools, community centers, and healthy and recreational open-space areas.  Yet nothing has been done along those lines in all the time the company has been there. Begging the question: can we believe what Mr. Combs  says on this night at this public meeting? 

I asked him his intentions about helping those whose health is already affected in our area and what his plans are to prevent further manifestations of health complications.  In my opinion, he dodged the issue by denying the evidence that his fields are in any way adversely affecting the local residents. 

He did, however, make a point of saying that the fields in question are on the “other” side of the hill from our community, and therefore the health issue would not affect us.  My immediate response was, so what happens to those residents?  Are their needs no less important? 

Interestingly and rather ironically, the Santa Susana region (where a settled population lives) was brought up by the panel.  Santa Susana has already been mired in a years-long environmental crisis as a result of Rocketdyne dumping.  Can we ask those same residents to have to deal with potentially more egregious pollution and contamination problems? 

Combs  was also asked about the chemicals being used in the oil-drilling process.  He said he didn’t know but would make the list available (he should have been prepared to offer this significant information). The community cannot afford to wait.  We need more specific data now (as I have mentioned in previous CityWatch articles) since it is necessary to know percentages and proportions in order to diagnose and treat the health-distressed in an effective and timely way. 

He had to admit that some of his wells were dug with the very dangerous fracking method but stated that those wells have not been utilized since 2012.  Whether that date is accurate or not, we know that the fracking procedure and the waste water produced from it create a condition  that pollutes the air and produces chemicals that can leak into the ground water, making it unpotable. 

On the other hand, LA City Council Member Mitch Englander (photo) did ask the Porter Ranch NC to support a demand for an Environmental Impact Report before any further actions can be taken on this matter.  The NC did unanimously support that request (EIRs, by the way, can take up to a year before the investigations are complete).  Hurray for the wisdom of that vote! 

At a time when the Los Angeles City Council has passed a ban on all fracking within the entire City (an effort is currently being made to apply that policy statewide), it makes no sense to allow expansion of this oil field over the next several years.   This is also a time when the City recently banned single-use plastic bags and has mandated that the City be entirely off coal (and any fossil fuels, like gas) over the next few years.  A transition from such fuels to entirely clean energy cannot be compromised by actions that would perpetuate the utilization of and dependence upon dirty fuels. 

The LADWP Board has just added to previous environmental decisions—this time to require the DWP to be 15% more energy-efficient by 2020 (one Board member even asked if 20% would not be an unreasonable goal).  Comparisons were made to what is transpiring in Europe at this time—many of those countries are mandating a 25% increase in efficiency in the near future, so our goal is not unreasonable. 

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Myriad studies have shown that we are literally at the tipping point—if major changes are not in place world-wide by 2050, life as we know it will become unrecognizable by the turn of the next century (think of how the world had to start all over after the Age of Dinosaurs). 

We can’t afford to procrastinate.  Become informed and let your leaders know how you feel.  Contact your County Supervisor (no matter where you live because the determination will be based upon a majority vote of the five supervisors).  Contact your City Councilmembers as well—they are certainly in a position to influence thinking across council lines. 

There is no time to vacillate.  If this company is allowed to expand in the Aliso Canyon area, which unsuspecting community will be next? 

Just sayin’.


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)






Vol 12 Issue 65

Pub: Aug 12, 2014