Culver City Observer -

Controlling Environment Hazards

Council Approves Consultant for Oil Field Matters

 

April 16, 2015

By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

In what may be a major step in the direction of controlling environmental hazards from the Inglewood Oil Field, Culver City has approved the appointment of the firm BonTerra Psomas as environmental consultant for preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Inglewood Oil Field Specific Plan Project.

The appointment was voted on at the April 13 council meeting.

The consultant was chosen, according to Culver City Attorney Carol Schwab, from a field of five firms, after "we sent out a Request for Proposals." BonTerra Psomas "demonstrated that they understand the nature of the project and we felt they were qualified. They had direct experience in preparing an EIR for the city of La Habra Heights."

Culver City mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, who has been outspoken in her concern about the use of fracking in oil drilling, said the main problem with choosing a consultant was finding one that would have "the least amount of conflict of interest."

Critics of fracking have often criticized reports on oil drilling safety for being drafted by firms that work for or are associated with, the oil companies.

In October of 2008 Los Angeles County adopted the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (CSD) establishing regulations for oil and gas production activities in the remaining approximate 900 acres of the active surface area of the Inglewood Oil Field.

The existing regulations for the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field were last updated in 2003.

In the last few years new information has come out relating to oil drilling impacts and technological developments. The City Council, Culver City residents, and the surrounding communities have expressed significant concerns regarding uncertain impacts on the public health and safety and the environment which may occur as a result of oil and gas operations in the Oil Field.

To that end, a Specific Plan has been developed. In its final form, it will incorporate comments from the public as well as from the oil operator and other interested parties.

There were a few public speakers at the council meeting who reiterated previously expressed concerns about environmental dangers of oil drilling and fracking.

Referring to a small earthquake that had occurred the previous evening (April 12), Gary Glass noted that quakes are a "wake-up call" as they could cause sensitive areas of the ground to actually liquefy. Speakers mentioned that some parts of Culver City are in a "liquefaction zone"

The appointment of BonTerra Psomas was approved unanimously and without discussion. The firm will be paid a fee of $305,080, which includes, but is not limited to, peer review of technical studies, public meetings and preparation of all environmental documents.

The Council had a longer, and more divisive, discussion on approval of in-kind assistance for two arts events, to be held May 30-31 and September 19-20.

These events, known as "An Affair of the Arts," are outdoor arts and crafts fairs with vendor booths and are run by Lisa Shultz's gallery The Whole 9.

Shultz was seeking city sponsorship of the events as well as a number of fee waivers for such amenities and services as use of Parcel B as a site (the rental fee is $500), the waiver of a $450 a day parking fee, waiver of a $170 event permit fee, and waiver of a $144 street banner hanging permit.

Council member Andy Weissman was uncomfortable with the fee waivers. "Year after year we get these requests for waivers," he said. "We need justification for them."

Mehaul O' Leary sided with Weissman and became impatient with Shultz when she defended her need for the waivers.

Weissman suggested an "alternate motion" to be approved, that would eliminate three of the fee waivers. O' Leary seconded his alternate motion. On a vote for the alternate motion Weissman and O' Leary voted for it; the other three council members voted it down.

The original motion, including all the fee waivers requests, passed, three votes to two, the dissenters being Weissman and O' Leary.

 

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