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Opposition Grows as Plans Are Laid for Pipeline : Environment: Proposal to transport crude oil underground through largely poor and minority areas draws cries of 'environmental racism.' The project's backers say it will mean jobs.

June 13, 1993|LUCILLE RENWICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOUTHEAST AREA — A proposed crude-oil pipeline would pass near homes, apartments, schools and a park in some Southeast-area cities on its way to South Bay refineries.

The 171-mile pipeline, proposed by a consortium of 11 oil companies, would carry crude oil from Santa Barbara County to refineries in El Segundo and Wilmington. The Pacific Pipeline would pass through Walnut Park, Huntington Park, alongside South Gate, and through Lynwood and Compton.

Most of the proposed route in this area is lined with manufacturing plants, auto body and tire shops and other industry. But in Compton, the pipeline would pass condominiums, a park, the headquarters of the Compton Unified School District and one of its junior high schools.

And on its way through Lynwood and along South Gate's western border, it would pass near homes, apartments and two schools. In Huntington Park, the pipeline would run near more homes, the Huntington Park Casino and a BMW auto dealership.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 17, 1993 Home Edition Southeast Part J Page 3 Column 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Pipeline funding--A June 13 story incorrectly identified the oil companies that are leading a consortium to help finance the proposed $215-million Pacific Pipeline project from Santa Barbara to refineries in Los Angeles County. The companies are Chevron, Texaco and Exxon.

City officials in the area are still studying the proposal, which has to clear several hurdles. So far, there has been no public opposition in Southeast Los Angeles County.

"People are just starting to find out about it," said Huntington Park Councilman Ric Loya.

But dozens of residents and activists from the Eastside to South-Central are joining to battle the proposal.

Angered by decades of living with a glut of factories, landfills and auto repair shops, critics say the pipeline--like other projects in these communities--is an example of "environmental racism," a pattern in which the nation's most environmentally hazardous industries are placed in poor and minority areas.

Residents have other fears about the pipeline: ruptures from earthquakes or train derailments, toxic fumes from spills, air pollution from construction and possible fires and explosions.

Proponents say such concerns are unwarranted, pointing out the pipeline's safety valves would exceed federal safety requirements for guarding against oil spills. And in the midst of a tough job market, the $215-million pipeline is expected to provide 400 union-scale jobs to Los Angeles County residents. The project calls for creation of a job-training center for inner-city youths.

In Central Los Angeles, the Pacific Pipeline is to travel 20 miles along railroad right-of-way property through Cypress Park, East Los Angeles and Watts. Then it would pass through the Southeast area and Carson.

"We're looking at what we can do to participate in every city we're going through," said Norman Rooney, president of Pacific Pipeline Systems Inc. of Ventura, which is proposing the pipeline on behalf of the oil companies.

The oil companies--led by Chevron, Texaco, Shell and Arco--must find a pipeline route by 1996 to replace the tankers, each of which carries about 269,000 barrels to the refineries. The state Coastal Commission has ordered oil companies to phase out the use of tankers, which have a greater risk of spills and air pollution problems than pipelines.

The first public hearing on the project, before the state Public Utilities Commission, is scheduled Monday in downtown Los Angeles. Hearings also will be held in Carson and Burbank on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The commission will decide in July whether the pipeline is environmentally sound. If it gets the go-ahead from the commission, the proposal must then be approved by each city and county it traverses. If there are no delays, construction would begin next spring and the pipeline could be completed the following year.

But trouble may lie ahead for the project.

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles Board of Education approved separate resolutions opposing it.

"The lower-income communities have been dumped on for years. Now we're saying: 'We've paid our share and we don't want any more,' " said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez, a leading opponent. "The fact that (companies) continue to try and put things here is racist, because they believe the people will offer the least resistance."

Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency released a report that racial and ethnic minorities nationwide suffer disproportionate exposure to dust, soot, carbon monoxide, lead and emissions from hazardous-waste dumps.

A 1987 study by the United Church of Christ's Commission on Racial Justice found that three out of five blacks and Latinos in the country lived near toxic-waste sites. More Latinos in Los Angeles live in communities near toxic-waste sites than in any other city in the United States, the report noted. Six years later, little has changed.

"What you're saying, in a sense, is that a big segment of the community is considered garbage, a throw-away community," said Robert Bullard, a sociology professor at UC Riverside and an expert on environmental racism. "That is the most blatant form of racism that we can see."

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