Los Angeles transportation officials and Mobil Oil executives attempted Wednesday night to reassure area residents that a massive construction project to replace Mobil's aging and leaky underground pipeline would not significantly disrupt neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley.
But many of the 30 residents who attended the meeting at Van Nuys High School said they remain worried about increased traffic congestion and noise that would result from the proposed project. Over a two-year period, the company plans to replace about 75 miles of high-pressure pipeline that carries heated crude oil from Kern County to Mobil's refinery in Torrance.
Residents also said they are concerned that Mobil's proposal to replace the existing pipeline, which varies from 10 to 16 inches in diameter, with a standard 16-inch pipeline would increase pollution in the Los Angeles Basin by allowing Mobil to expand its refinery. Mobil has said it does not plan to expand the Torrance facility.
"I demand a full-fledged environmental report because it's obvious there are going to be major impacts from this project," said Wayde Hunter, a spokesman for the North Valley Coalition, a Granada Hills residents association.
The $75-million project, which Mobil wants to begin in 1990, would affect about 15 miles of major streets in Granada Hills, Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks, said Ken Cude, an engineer for the city's Department of Transportation.
The streets affected in the Valley would be portions of San Fernando Road, Balboa Boulevard, Rinaldi Street, Woodley Avenue, Victory Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard.
A final public hearing on the project is set Sept. 28 before the Los Angeles Board of Transportation Commissioners, which has the final say over whether Mobil can build the 26-mile-long section through the Valley and West Los Angeles.
The new pipeline would also cross the Santa Clarita Valley, but construction there is expected to be less controversial because most of the line would go through lightly populated areas along the Golden State Freeway, Cude said.
Mobil proposed the project earlier this year after state fire safety officials voiced concern about corrosion in the existing pipeline, which carries 63,000 barrels of heated crude oil a day at pressures of up to 1,300 pounds per square inch.
The line has been plagued by a series of leaks, including two back-to-back breaks last year in Encino and Sherman Oaks that spilled a total of 213,000 gallons of water and oil onto Ventura Boulevard and nearby streets.
Last month, Los Angeles transportation engineers concluded after a six-month study that the project would not harm the environment if Mobil met certain conditions.
Mobil officials reiterated those conditions Wednesday, telling residents at the meeting that the company will hire a consultant to prepare a traffic management plan and will not perform construction work at night in residential neighborhoods or at peak rush hours. Mobil will also cover its trenches with steel plating and will reopen the streets during periods when construction is not occurring, said Bill Ham, a Mobil spokesman.
At some busy intersections, such as Sepulveda and Ventura boulevards, the company will tunnel underground instead of tearing up the streets, Ham said.
But Don Schultz, a spokesman for the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., said the project "will bring Valley streets to a screeching halt." And Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, called the larger pipeline "an invitation to deteriorated air quality in the basin."
Silver and others at the meeting called for an environmental impact report on the project, saying they believe that Mobil will eventually use the line's increased capacity to transport more oil.