Environment

Sen. Boxer calls on Los Angeles company to stop oil operations

One report indicates EPA inspectors fell sick at the site during a recent visit to follow up about residents' complaints

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., recently met with local residents who have complained about foul odors coming from the oil facility in Los Angeles.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has called on an oil servicing company to stop production at its Los Angeles facility which has been the subject of hundreds of complaints since 2010 after some local residents complained of nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness and respiratory problems. Several housing projects and schools surround the site.

Boxer met with residents in the University Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles on Friday. For the past several years, residents have filed complaints with the state about foul odors from Allenco Energy Inc.'s nearby oil field, which increased production due to rising crude oil prices and new extraction techniques. Allenco leases the land from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

"This terrible situation simply cannot go on," said Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Boxer recently appealed to the Environmental Protection Agency for help and this week the agency dispatched a team of inspectors to the facility near the University of Southern California campus to collect data.

EPA spokeswoman Nahal Mogharabi told Al Jazeera that the agency conducted an inspection of the Allenco facility on Nov. 6 and that results of that inspection were still being determined. 

During a visit to the facility on Oct. 24, some inspectors apparently fell sick due to vapors at the site, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest Jared Blumenfeld told the paper Friday that he and fellow inspectors suffered from coughing, sore throats and "severe headaches that lingered for hours."

"I've been to oil and gas production facilities throughout the region, but I've never had an experience like that before," Blumenfeld told the Times. 

Persistent complaints

In a letter sent to Boxer Thursday, a copy of which the EPA provided to Al Jazeera, Blumenfeld wrote that in addition to reviewing information that was collected from the site, the EPA was also seeking additional documentation with regard to the facility. 

"We will ensure public access to all relevant information as soon as possible and as appropriate," Blumenfeld wrote. 

Blumenfeld also said he would meet with California's Division of Gas and Geothermal Resources, to find out what "may set this site apart from other similarly situated oil producer sites in Los Angeles."

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), which is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has received 340 complaints about powerful fumes from the facility since 2010.

Phone calls to Allenco for comment were not immediately returned Saturday.

AQMD has conducted 64 site inspections at the facility and issued 16 notices of violations against Allenco, according to the EPA. Allenco has paid more than $200,000 in penalties to replace valves, service wells and clean the facility, the EPA said.

Despite the citations, Boxer said "the severe chemical odor problem has persisted."

Last month, state air regulators told residents that air sampling taken from the neighborhood has not turned up dangerous odor levels. The AQMD plans to continue monitoring.

University Park residents are not the only ones pushing back against urban oil fields. Residents in Baldwin Hills, Culver City and Whittier have complained about increased oil production activities in their neighborhoods. 

Philip J. Victor contributed to this report, with The Associated Press.  

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