Surrounded by apartment buildings and retirement homes, and less than 1,000 feet from three public schools, an active oil drill site is hidden just behind a green fence and a row of carefully manicured trees. Two gates on either end display signs identifying the Murphy Site, operated by E&B Natural Resources. The signs warn of cancer- and birth defect-causing chemicals, and the possible presence of hydrogen sulfide, an extremely flammable and toxic gas known for its pungent, “rotten egg” odor.
The Murphy Site, which taps the La Cienegas Oil Field, is located in Jefferson Park, a South L.A. neighborhood composed mostly of Black and Latino residents. Those living near the site display “significantly higher prevalence of wheezing, eye and nose irritation and dizziness” as well as reduced lung capacity, according to a 2021 study from the University of Southern California.
The site is not owned by an energy company, though, but by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. That’s why some religious activists have been calling on the archdiocese and the city to protect those at risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals by shutting down the site, which has been active since oil wells were first drilled in 1961 after an oil tycoon’s daughter donated the property to the archdiocese. That years-long activism has culminated in a response from the city in late February that places sweeping restrictions on E&B Natural Resources’ operations and represents a huge victory for public health advocates.
“Oil drill sites are fundamentally incompatible with residential neighborhoods,” said Richard Parks, the president and founder of Redeemer Community Partnership, a Christian faith-centered nonprofit whose priorities include keeping South L.A. residents safe from the health effects of urban oil wells. “The Murphy Drill Site should have never been here, and it shouldn’t be here now.”
To progressive Christians like Parks, the damage being dealt to residents is antithetical to the mission of the Catholic Church.
“I’ve reached out to the archdiocese and I’ve said, ‘This is blood money that you’re taking here,'” Parks said. “‘Would you think about breaking this lease out of love for your South L.A. neighbors?'”
He said, “Their answer was no.”
However, a Letter of Determination was released by the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Zoning Administration on Feb. 28. The legally binding document outlines more than 30 conditions, meant to “increase the protection of and to preserve the health, safety and general welfare of the residents and stakeholders of the neighborhood,” that E&B Natural Resources must meet in order to continue operations at the Murphy Drill Site.
According to the document, E&B Natural Resources is already compliant with many of the conditions, but fails to meet crucial ones like not allowing avoidable “noise, vibration, dust, odor or other harmful or annoying substances” to affect nearby residents. Further, the letter also imposes new conditions and appears to address some of the community’s highest-priority demands, such as the construction of a 45-foot-tall barrier to enclose the site within two years, and the transition to exclusive use of electric power for onsite operations.
Full story at National Catholic Reporter.
If the oil is down there, it would be a waste of mineral rights not to pump it out of the ground and sell it. Good on the archdiocese for making money this way.
those fields have been operated for
over 100 years.
tapped by hundreds of wells over those years.
don’t remember any mass casualties ever in populated LA
have some perspective
The green bigots have such empty, meaningless lives that to avoid boredom they attack property owners’ rights with dubious claims of harm to neighbors from utterly safe drilling operations.
Many of the same people opposing this drilling ostensibly out of concern for people’s health are also supporting all of California’s abortion and transgender laws.
They don’t care about people nor about health. They are bored green bigots.
If there are off-site health consequences, this is a serious matter and the archdiocese should proceed accordingly. In my career as a Fire investigator, I investigated many hazardous materials incidents. This isn’t a “mass casualty” single event, but it does appear there may be long term health consequences for the neighbors. Our Lord calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) This situation should be thoroughly investigated, from a public health and safety standpoint, not politics (left or right).
Unfortunately, public health and safety has become corrupted by leftist politics. Another example is how the left has begun to claim that gun confiscation is a public health and safety issue, and leftist Catholics have begun to claim that gun bans are a pro-life issue.
Everything is politicized these days.
The people giving the archdiocese headaches over this are leftists who oppose fossil fuels. They don’t care about people’s health. They just want fossil fuels to be banned. The health angle is merely a strategic choice about what means to employ toward the desired end of shutting down the site, including adding regulatory compliance costs, purportedly out of concern for health, to render pumping oil unprofitable.
The homeless and druggies and gang bangers all over the streets of L.A. are a worse public health and safety hazard than this drilling site.
Does the State of California have a permitting process? Does it require the permittee to establish fence line monitoring and air emissions testing? Are the testers required to be accredited? Are test results posted on a public webpage?
Yes, that would all be under CEQA.
Paul, they do have a permitting process and procedures to follow. There are state, federal and local laws governing health and safety. Yet, those are not always complied with. Those who illegally (mis-)handled and disposed of hazardous materials in cases in which I was involved were violating the law. That’s why we sought prosecution. By definition, those not obeying the law are committing crimes.
And, it’s true that most residents moved there after this facility was there. But, most living there cannot afford to live elsewhere. (I’m pretty sure they’d prefer Beverly Hills or Los Altos Hills, if they had a choice.) All persons should be protected from known hazards. That’s a primary job of government and a vocation for those of us who follow Christ. Let’s leave the politics aside and protect as many persons as possible.
It’s not a matter of saying drugs and gang violence are more dangerous. Why compare harmful behavior, as if some is acceptable?
Would you want your family living near that facility?
Again, I don’t know the hazards, but this situation should be thoroughly and fairly examined.
How are questions about permits and permit compliance political? The time to debate the current rules is past, unless there are provisions for rule-making that can be initiated by the stakeholders. If the facility is compliant with its permit requirements and the data from the accredited laboratories or emission testers support the conclusion, then I would have no reason to believe that my health is endangered.
Paul, I don’t think that we disagree much. Neither you or I know if they’re in compliance with health and environmental regulations. That’s what needs to be investigated. Companies, of course, file and report compliant documentation. I’ve been involved in the prosecution of companies that claimed they were in compliance, but, in fact, were not. I’ve never known a company to publicly state (before an investigation), “we’re in violation of the law.” Reportedly, the air quality management district found a leak of natural gas at 400 percent the allowable limit. And, apparently, and likely, they’ve had other air quality and health violations.
As you noted, “if” the facility is compliant… That seems to be the question, in light of apparent off-site adverse health effects.
And, yes, accredited labs (provided the samples were taken correctly), industrial hygienists, EPA, air districts and others are all part of the processes. If the facility is safe, then, it should continue in operation.
If the oil drill site has been in operation legally for over 100 years, and people just now complaining it’s bad for the neighbor’s health, the neighbors should move out.
It’s like people in new residential developments in Arizona complaining about the coyotes. Was the pumping site here before other development? If so, get over it. I’m sick of people who have nothing better to do than complain about everything.
“Activist” is synonymous with “spoiled, immature, entitled busybody”
It’s more like “spoiled middle-class elitist whose wealth and lifestyle were funded and enabled by industrial activity he now considers icky.”
How many of the houses were built after the oil drilling site was established?
Drill, Baby, Drill!
Oil tycoon Edward Doheny drilled
his first wells very near this site in 1892.
He made his big oil bucks in Tampico, Mexico.
With his oil bucks, he built magnificent St. Vincent’s
Church near USC/Coliseum.
Maybe sell off church and offer proceeds as Reparation ???
Mea culpa, mea petroleum
“MEUM petroleum” :)
so THAT’S why I could never pass Latin!
Dough, And, in reparation for owning slaves, the Jesuits should sell LMU, USF, Santa Clara U. and other schools and donate the proceeds to Angela Davis, Kamala and Obama for all the suffering they’ve had to endure on Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere.
Oh wait, the Jesuits already sold those schools when they sold their souls.
Qui facit per alium facit per se.
Sounds mostly like an eco-shakedown operation.
check out this link to get
a visual perspective of this
issue in LA