In Defense of Occidental Project

The letter by Elizabeth Mortimer, which appeared Dec. 27 in the Westside section of the Los Angeles Times, is the fourth such totally unfounded attack on Occidental which has appeared in The Times this year. She has alleged, among other charges, that there have been gas leaks, noise and fires which she says have caused residents to flee from their homes in the vicinity of Occidental’s urban oil drilling project at Pico Boulevard and Doheny Drive in West Los Angeles.

The fact is none of this is true.

One such alleged fire or “blowout” to which Mortimer has referred in The Times and other Los Angeles publications is officially listed in the Los Angeles City Fire Department records as a “false or unintentional alarm.” A formal inspection by the Fire Department on July 24, 1987, following the alleged incident found no irregularities or evidence of any fire whatsoever. Furthermore, the drill site is equipped with state-of-the-art fire prevention equipment designed to prevent such incidents as Mortimer has alleged.

Mortimer continues to criticize the formation of the drilling districts which were established more than 20 years ago at the Pico/Doheny site. Although Mortimer does not receive royalties, virtually 100% of those who own mineral rights in the drilling districts continue to lease their rights to Occidental. At its inception, four public hearings were held on the project by various city offices before the districts were formed and over 900 communications from people residing in the districts called for approval of the drilling projects. Also, formal recommendations of approval of the drilling districts were adopted without dissent by the city Planning Department hearing examiner, the department’s chief examiner, the city Planning Commission, the Planning Committee of the Los Angeles City Council and, ultimately, by the full City Council itself.


In 1971, Occidental was awarded the Engineering Merit Award by the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering for the Pico/Doheny project “for its part in developing a major oil field in metropolitan Los Angeles with minimal disruption to the community utilizing directional drilling, rigid sound and vibration control and extensive screening and camouflage.” The City of Los Angeles also awarded an official commendation for the project, stating, “Occidental Petroleum Corporation has added to the City’s beauty by constructing at Pico Boulevard and Doheny Drive the world’s first architecturally designed oil-gas derrick which has the appearance of a very attractive and ultra-modern high-rise office building, and is designed to harmonize with new construction in the area.”

The Pico/Doheny project continues to be a model urban drilling project, using quiet and safe equipment. As the permit requires, normal operating hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no deliveries or heavy equipment operating on Sundays and holidays. There have been no new wells drilled at this site since 1979 and the site is regularly inspected by the Enforcement Division of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the California Division of Oil & Gas, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Water Quality Resource Control Board.

Occidental continues to be a concerned, responsible neighbor in the Westside community. The Pico/Doheny production site has operated safely and efficiently for 22 years, to date having produced 43.4 million barrels of high quality oil and 69.3 billion cubic feet of gas for our nation’s energy needs while providing the city with millions of dollars of needed revenue. Last year alone, this one drill site produced $350,000 in fees and taxes to the various governmental taxing districts in our community.

Unfortunately, Mortimer’s fiction and fantasies regarding Occidental have totally distorted the facts about the Pico/Doheny project and have ignored the many benefits clean, safe urban oil drilling has provided the City of Los Angeles for more than 50 years.



Manager of Production/West Coast

Occidental Petroleum Corp.