L.A. County to set up strike team to look at oil and gas wells

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to set up a strike team of fire, public health and planning officials to look at the safety of oil and gas fields in unincorporated county areas.

The action was prompted by the recent four-month gas leak at Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch.

The county's unincorporated areas have 1,687 oil and gas wells. More than half are in the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills area, overseen by the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District.

The strike team will focus on the wells outside that district. The sites will be surveyed for potential safety issues and compliance with permitting requirements. The team is to report back twice a year to recommend any regulatory or legal actions the board should take.

The county team also could work with cities that have oil or gas operations within their borders to monitor them -- the supervisors specifically mentioned oil extraction facilities operating in Montebello and proposed in Whittier.

Supervisors said the team might be expanded to look at other industrial facilities, like the now-closed Exide battery plant in Vernon, and at pipelines.

They also asked staff to update zoning codes so that future oil and gas facilities would be required to go through more review before opening.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, who proposed setting up the team, wrote that the Aliso Canyon gas leak and contamination from the Exide facility "highlight the dire environmental, economic and public health repercussions when existing industrial facilities have not been properly maintained or operated to ensure that the health and well-being of its employees and surrounding residents are protected."

At the request of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, the strike team will be advised by a panel of five outside experts appointed by the board.

Twitter: @sewella



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