WHITTIER (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to halt proposed oil drilling in Whittier Hills — but the long-running battle is far from over.
KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports environmental justice advocates and community members are concerned about potential environmental fallout from a taxpayer-funded plan to drill on protected land.
Supervisor Gloria Molina was on hand at a meeting Tuesday night to stand in opposition to proposed oil drilling by the Matrix Oil Co. in what Molina described as “pristine open space” which purchased with nearly $17 million in Proposition A tax revenues.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a lease deal that opponents say would keep all profits between Matrix and the city of Whittier, while also disrupting core protected habitat, creating visual blight, closing hiking trails, and subjecting the local community to noise, air, and potential water pollution.
“When taxpayers approved Prop. A in 1992 and again in 1996, we promised that a vote for Prop. A meant support for land preservation and animal habitat restoration — not oil drilling,” Molina said in a statement.
In 1992, Whittier received $9.3 million in Prop. A funds for the “acquisition of natural lands and related facilities” in the Whittier Hills, which contains about 1,280 acres of open space which the city agreed to operate and maintain “into perpetuity.” The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy allocated $7 million more in Prop. A money to the Whittier Hills project to “facilitate the preservation of park and open space land,” according to Molina.
But residents say officials are using a double standard when it comes to determining which sites are targeted for drilling operations.
“Oil drilling on Prop. A land would never be accepted in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said one opponent. “Why is it OK to do it in Whittier Hills?”
As many as five lawsuits have been filed against the city of Whittier, Matrix and Clayton Williams Energy, according to the Whittier Daily News.
The issue will go back to court, where the decision could impacting the use of other lands under Prop. A.