By Zack Tawatari , SPECTRUM NEWS 1 LA
July 17, 2019
CULVER CITY, Calif. - It’s prime real estate in Culver City’s Raintree neighborhood.
That’s part of the reason Deborah Weinrauch has lived here over 20 years.
But this development, which used to be part of Hollywood -- MGM’s Lot 3 -- has another neighbor: the Inglewood Oil Field.
You can see the derricks from Weinrauch's porch and the closest one is within 100 yards.
“Residents don’t believe the oil wells are safe,” said Weinrauch.
She says neighbor after neighbor has fallen victim to cancer. She herself had reproductive cancer in 2015, and her biggest fear is that her proximity to the oil drilling is causing her and her neighbors to breathe in toxic substances.
“We never know exactly what the cause is but it’s always in the back of our mind that perhaps the oil fields have impacted the diagnosis, perhaps even caused the cancer. We just don’t know,” she said.
At a press conference on Friday, she and representatives from Consumer Watchdog called on Governor Gavin Newsom to “freeze all permits and replace the leadership at the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.”
That was a day after Newsom requested California’s natural resources secretary fire Ken Harris, the state’s top oil and gas regulator after Consumer Watchdog provided evidence of conflict of of interest within the division and an increase in fracking permits.
Weinrauch says that while there’s no way she can directly link her sickness to the oil field, she hopes her story will get the state to strengthen its oversight of the industry, especially at the local level.
“When we’re asking questions, maybe we’re getting correct answers, maybe we’re not getting correct answers. Many of us don’t understand the answers we’re getting. But the one thing that’s consistent is we’re being told, 'if there was a a problem we’d fix it,'” said Weinrauch.
She's just hoping to avoid what she calls “poison in paradise.”
Spectrum News 1 reached out to the California Independent Petroleum Association for comment on this story and received the following statement, from VP of Communications, Sabrina Demayo Lockhart.
"Oil and natural gas production began more than a century ago in the LA basin and helped create the wealth to make Los Angeles the city it is today. In Los Angeles County alone, more than 20 local, state and federal agencies regulate and permit oil and natural gas operations. California has the toughest environmental laws in the country, proving that responsible production can provide affordable energy to consumers while protecting the environment. Examples of scientific studies that have shown that operations are safe include:
- Inglewood Oil Field Communities Health Assessment” prepared for the LA County Dept. of Public Health dated 2011. This comprehensive study on the potential health impacts associated with the Inglewood Oil Field – one of the largest urban oil fields in the United States – found there is no statistically significant difference in the mortality rates for all causes of death in the area surrounding the field. Further, the study found no statistical difference in the rates of low-birth-weight births, no finding of a significant difference in the number of birth defects, no finding of a significant risk of Alzheimer’s disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, Emphysema/COPD, Pneumonia, and no evidence of elevated cancer rates when compared to other communities in Los Angeles County and adjusted for age and race/ethnicity. In fact, African Americans and Hispanics in nearby communities had statistically significantly lower mortality rates for all causes of death compared to those in the rest of LA County.
- Oil and Gas Facility Compliance Review Project” prepared for the County of Los Angeles dated October 2016, March 2017 and September 2017 by MRS Environmental. This effort reviews all oil and gas facilities within the unincorporated area of the County other than the Inglewood Oil Field which was the subject of separate undertakings. A public health screening assessment is included for each location which takes into account proximity to populations, operating pressures, and gas composition. Within all three reports, the findings show that the majority of oil operations in LA County are in compliance with regulations.
- Hermosa Beach E&B Oil Drilling Project Health Impact Study” dated September 2014 conducted by Intrinsik, studied air quality, soil and water impacts, and other community concerns. The study found that there were no increased air pollution concerns generated by the proposed project other than some simple odor emissions that may be experienced when in close proximity to the drill site. These odor concerns have a correlation with increased levels of stress and nuisance for the community, but would be periodic. Overall findings stated the Project would have no substantial effect on the health of the community.“Baldwin Hills Air Quality Study” prepared by Sonoma Technology, Inc. on behalf of LA County in 2015. The study evaluated the potential for air emissions of toxic substances from oil field operations. The study concluded that all measured metals and air toxics were below the exposure levels set by the California Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment. Further, it concluded that other toxic pollutants were statistically indistinguishable from background Los Angeles air due to high vehicle-related air pollution rates.
Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR)– Baldwin Hills Community Standards District” in October 2008. The Public Health Risk section of this EIR concluded that the cumulative impacts on public health risk for air toxic emission would be considered less than significant with mitigation, as most emissions from the site were caused by diesel powered vehicles and equipment. All four of the suggested mitigation methods outlined within the report have been enacted on site. Therefore, the estimated health risk associated with operations represents a “relatively small fraction of the overall air toxic health risk in the region.”