Carson considers temporary oil drilling ban over ‘fracking’ concerns


The city of Carson is considering a temporary ban on all new oil drilling following a public outcry over a massive proposed oil project by Occidental Petroleum.

Despite repeated assurances from Oxy that “fracking” and other well stimulation techniques will not be used to extract the oil, residents say they don’t trust the company, and are concerned about possible air and groundwater contamination.

“I’m tired of Carson being used as a guinea pig,” said Councilman Albert Robles, who proposed the moratorium and says he shares residents’ concerns over possible environmental effects.


“I don’t want to risk creating another contaminated site…. I think we already have more than our share.”

Mayor Jim Dear, who also supports the moratorium, says it will give the city the needed time to gather information about Oxy’s methods before moving forward.

The measure, which would take effect immediately and last 45 days, requires votes from four of the council’s five members. The council could extend the moratorium for a maximum of two years.

Robles said he’s also worried about Oxy’s recent announcement it’s moving to Texas and spinning off its California operations into a new company.

“It’s like being left at the altar, and suddenly somebody else appears,” said Robles. “They expect us to just assume that this new company is going to honor all the commitments and have the same track record and safety record.”

The proposal calls for drilling more than 200 wells, some more than 2 miles deep, in an effort to coax out more oil from the Dominguez Oil Field that runs below homes and nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills.


Company officials initially said they might use hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting mixtures of water, chemicals, and sand at high pressure to break up underground rock and free trapped oil. But they have since changed course, insisting the technique would not be effective in the area’s limestone deposits.

They have vowed not to use fracking at the Carson site, but the city is still in the process of negotiating an agreement with the company.

Oxy has also promised to disguise and soundproof the oil operation in a warehouse complex, and a draft environmental report examining the project recently concluded that the proposed project would cause no significant impacts to air quality, soil or groundwater.

Carson, a largely industrial city, is no stranger to oil drilling. More than 600 wells have been drilled in the Dominguez Oil Field, which has produced more than 270 million barrels of oil since its discovery in 1923.

The city also continues to grapple with the cleanup of the Carousel housing tract, where soil tests in 2008 revealed contamination from benzene and petroleum.

A local water quality board has ordered Shell Oil to clean up the mess, but frustrated with the pace, city officials last year declared a local emergency in an effort to place more pressure on the company.


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