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Pipeline Plan Brings Residents' Jeers, Union's Cheers : Public hearings: Neighbors fear spills and other environmental hazards. Labor organization officials say jobs should be the main concern.

June 20, 1993|LUCILLE RENWICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposed 171-mile pipeline that would pass through Central Los Angeles received mixed reviews at two public hearings last week, with area residents expressing strong opposition and union members applauding the project for the jobs it would create.

The state Public Utilities Commission conducted the hearings Downtown and in Carson to solicit public comment on the proposed Pacific Pipeline, which would carry oil from Santa Barbara County to refineries in El Segundo and Wilmington.

About 20 miles of the $215-million pipeline would travel along railroad right-of-way property through Cypress Park, East Los Angeles, Watts and several Southeast cities, including Huntington Park, South Gate, Lynwood and Compton. A consortium of 11 oil companies, led by Chevron, Texaco and Exxon, is helping finance the project.

At the first hearing, on Monday, more than 100 people, many of them angry residents from the Eastside and Downtown, showed up to voice their disapproval.

But before public comments were heard, many residents complained that the Public Utilities Commission disregarded the Chinese community by not providing translators and that the Spanish translator was inadequate.

The commission had received requests only for Spanish translators in the weeks before the hearing, said PUC officials running the meeting. If there is a need in future meetings, a translator will be provided, they said.

Members of Mothers of East L.A.-Santa Isabel and the Coalition Against the Pipeline said they opposed the project, and also wanted to rid the Los Angeles Basin of refineries. Downtown residents and business owners said they feared major oil spills and that the pipeline posed an environmental hazard.

Michelle Grumet, of Coalition Against the Pipeline, said the members of her group "don't want a pipeline to be built at all, anywhere."

"These things get old, they rot, they break down and then we have real serious problems," Grumet said.

Overall, about 25 of the 40 people who spoke at the hearing opposed the pipeline.

Those speaking in its favor focused on the estimated 400 union-scale jobs it would create in Los Angeles County.

Sergio Rascon, president of the Local Laborers' 300 Union, which represents most of Los Angeles County, said he understood the opponents' safety concerns, but said: "Our main concern is jobs for our members. . . . We need jobs."

With more than 1,500 union members out of work, the pipeline could be a real asset, Rascon said.

Pipeline builders also say they will create a job-training center for inner-city youths.

At Tuesday's hearing in Carson, commissioners heard from about 25 people, including a throng of pipeline supporters who also talked about the need for jobs.

A representative of Rep. Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton), whose district includes Watts, Athens, Carson, Lynwood and Wilmington, said at the hearing that the congressman supports the pipeline project but also is interested in finding out more about it.

A Public Utilities Commission judge will review the comments and then decide whether to approve the project. By year's end, the commission's four members are to make a decision of whether to accept the judge's proposal or modify it.

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