Coalition Sues to Block Construction of 92-Mile Oil Pipeline Through Area

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A coalition of community groups stretching from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay has sued to block construction of a 92-mile oil pipeline under some of the busiest streets in Los Angeles to Mobil Oil's refinery in Torrance.

The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, requests that Los Angeles officials withdraw their approval of the city portion of the $90-million project on the ground that its environmental impact report was inadequate. The city Transportation Commission last month gave Mobil permission to replace 26 miles of aging pipeline under city streets.

The pipeline--which would carry oil from Kern County fields southward from Lebec--would run through the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, West Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Basin to Torrance. The route would roughly parallel the Golden State Freeway through the Tehachapi Mountains and the San Diego Freeway through Los Angeles.

Construction is expected to snarl traffic on city streets for about 18 months.

Officials of other agencies still studying the project--including the cities of Torrance and Hawthorne and the U.S. Forest Service--said Wednesday that they were uncertain how the suit would affect their decisions.

Mobil executives said they had not seen the suit and were unable to comment. Los Angeles officials defended the approval of the project, saying the impact report was not incomplete.

But members of the Coalition Against the Pipeline, created by various community groups along the pipeline's route, contend in their suit that Mobil and the city inadequately addressed issues such as air quality and the danger of oil spills. They also say the company ignored alternatives to building the new pipeline, and contend that the line--which would be larger than the existing line--is not a replacement, but an expansion.

Michele Grumet, a southwest Los Angeles resident who heads the coalition, said she wants the oil company to more fully address the potential hazards of its project in a new impact report prepared by an outside agency. Mobil paid the consultants who wrote the current report.

Grumet and others fear that the pipeline will transport more oil for refining and use in the Los Angeles basin, adding to its air pollution, despite assurances from Mobil that it will run the line at 75% of capacity and that any increases will replace other means of shipping oil, such as tankers and other pipelines.

"They're bringing more oil down to refine in the most polluted air basin in the United States," said Mary Edwards, president of the North Valley Coalition, who lives two blocks from the pipeline route in Granada Hills.

David Leatherman, division engineer for the city transportation department, said Wednesday that he had not read the suit, but that city officials were satisfied with the impact report and with public comments gathered during hearings on the pipeline.

"We feel it was done in accordance with the law," he said. "We dotted our i's and crossed our t's."

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