South L.A. oil field to cease operations during health probe

Allenco Energy Co.
Allenco Energy Co. has agreed to cease operations at its South Los Angeles facility until a federal probe into fumes in the area is completed.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A controversial urban oil field in South Los Angeles voluntarily agreed Friday to cease operations pending completion of a federal investigation prompted by complaints from neighbors who blame its noxious vapors for persistent respiratory ailments, headaches, nausea and nose bleeds.

The move comes a few weeks after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) urged Allenco Energy Co. to discontinue its oil production activities in the neighborhood of University Park, half a mile north of the USC campus, “until the experts tell us it is safe for our most vulnerable populations.”

In a letter to Boxer, Allenco President Peter Allen said the decision was made “to give you and the residents in our area a greater sense of confidence in our ability to operate responsibly and to appropriately address any concerns.”

Barry Wallerstein, executive director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, praised the company’s decision.


“It doesn’t happen very often that an operator voluntarily shuts down in response to concerns expressed by the community and its elected representatives -- in this case, Sen. Boxer,” Wallerstein said.

He added that Allen “had committed to make changes in equipment that was responsible for those vapors leaving the facility. He was quite sincere in resolving the problems and making the necessary equipment modifications.”

In the meantime, Allenco is the focus of ongoing investigations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, the Los Angeles County Department of Health and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which leases the 2-acre site to the company.




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