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Mobil Pipeline Construction to Start Despite Lawsuit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mobil Oil will begin construction in Granada Hills next Tuesday on a $90-million crude oil pipeline despite a pending lawsuit by homeowners seeking to block the project, the company announced Monday.

Mobil’s plan to begin construction drew criticism Monday from the Coalition Against the Pipeline, a citizens group that filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block the 90-mile-long pipeline, designed to carry oil from the company’s Kern County fields to its Torrance refinery.

The coalition contends that the environmental report on the project is inadequate. The case is being considered by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, but Mobil can begin work because the citizens group did not seek an injunction to block it.

Members of the coalition said they had hoped Mobil would wait for the judge’s ruling. “You feel helpless,” said Mary Edwards, a Granada Hills resident whose house is two blocks west of the pipeline route. “When big money and the city wants a project, there’s very little the people can do, except weep.”

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Mobil officials have said it is imperative to begin construction before more spills occur on the aging, leaky line that the new pipeline will replace. The existing line has ruptured eight times in the last five years, several times covering city streets with gooey rivers of crude oil.

Mobil officials said they do not know when they might begin construction of the South Bay portion of the pipeline, which follows the San Diego Freeway south from the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City.

The three South Bay cities through which the pipeline must pass--Inglewood, Hawthorne and Torrance--have not yet approved traffic management plans for the project, Mobil spokesman Jim Carbonetti said.

Two Mobil pipeline breaks that occurred this week in the South Bay were not related to this project, Carbonetti said. A high-pressure water test on a different pipeline that runs from the Port of Los Angeles to the Torrance refinery twice split seams in the line, once Tuesday in Torrance on Western Avenue at 205th Street and again on Wednesday in Carson at 26th and Moneta streets. Crews mopped up several barrels of oily water from the street after each mishap, Carbonetti said.

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Granada Hills residents can expect slowed traffic along sections of San Fernando Road, Balboa Boulevard, Rinaldi Street and Woodley Avenue because construction will take up one of the four lanes during daylight hours for the next seven weeks.

After that it will be the turn of residents of Mission Hills, North Hills, Sepulveda and Van Nuys, as ditches are dug and huge sections of the 16-inch pipeline designed to carry heated crude oil are buried four feet under city streets.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles city transportation engineers approved an 11-mile section of the pipeline route in the northern San Fernando Valley between San Fernando Road in Granada Hills and the intersection of Woodley Avenue and Victory Boulevard in Van Nuys.

The worst traffic tie-ups in that section of the route are expected to occur at the intersections of Balboa Boulevard and Rinaldi Street, and of Nordhoff Street and Woodley Avenue, said Tom Jones, a senior city transportation engineer. Motorists can expect traffic delays at both intersections during a two-day period, Jones said.

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Mobil will dig trenches and install pipe only during hours approved by the city, Jones said. City traffic engineers have drawn up the schedules in an attempt to prevent construction from hindering rush hour traffic.

The trenches will be covered by metal plates during non-working hours, and Mobil will remove all construction equipment from the area, he said.

The first streets to be excavated will be in Granada Hills. This week, Mobil employees will roam residential neighborhoods there, armed with flyers informing residents of the scheduled construction. The company will notify residents along each section of the route seven days before it begins digging, Carbonetti said.


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