When the City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the release of the draft of the Environmental Impact Report at the end of the July 11 meeting, it signaled the next chess move in a very long game between Culver City and the corporate interests controlling the Inglewood Oil Field.
“The choice to keep these sub-committee meetings closed wasn’t about excluding members of the community,” Council member Jim Clarke noted at the special council meeting last night to address the release of the Environmental Impact Report on the Inglewood Oil Field. “It was also about excluding all the landowners involved, and all of their lawyers. We needed some time to discuss – in private – some of these very sensitive issues.”
While the surprise announcement from Sentinel Peak Resources, the current corporate lease holder, to withdraw their request for the city to wait on releasing the EIR allowed a measure of relief from the anticipated clash of community versus company, it left a much larger question in its wake; what next?
Clarke and Council Member Meghan Sahli-Wells were the sub-committee in question, and their exhaustive work with the staff over the last 15 months as to how the city could best proceed in regulating the portion of the Inglewood Field in their jurisdiction has yielded more questions than answers.
With the most recent update on the regulations dating from 2013, Sahli-Wells also noted “This is the third company to be [drilling for oil] on this property since I took office in 2012.” Both the lack of information and the active amount of disinformation that has been in play has left the city struggling to place rules. Maps provided by previous oil companies PXP and Freeport MacMoRan in regard to the location and the number of oil wells did not correspond to information from the California State Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) and multiple requests from the city for information did not create any clarity. That both the state and oil companies were not willing to be acurate about the number and location of active oil wells has left Culver City in a difficult position.
“The most recent previous company -Freeport MacMoRan – was not forthcoming [with accurate information on drilling] ” noted Sahli-Wells, ” and to have the city staff making assumptions over the next 15 years [is not workable] We can’t have a plan is based on these assumptions and not on accurate information of what is happening and where.”
Despite the statement from Mayor Jeff Cooper that those who came to address the meeting would be better served to save their remarks for another meeting, 27 speaker cards were in receipt by City Clerk Jeremy Green. Dozens of concerned members of the community got up to speak about cancer clusters, oil dependence, government inaction and corporate greed. The council listened respectfully.
Noting that the Los Angeles County regulation on the oil field “did not go far enough,” Sahli-Wells reminded the crowd that it could be 60 to 90 days before the next step in the release of the EIR. “There is a lot that needs to happen here. We’ve spent over a million dollars on technical studies and legal help. We might be looking at 5 to 7 months at best [before regulations are in place.] ”
When the vote went up for five ayes, it was clear the council would continue moving the process forward.