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SOUTH GATE : Pipeline Foes Fail to Sway Council

August 29, 1993|MARY HELEN BERG

After being assured that the city will not be liable if an oil spill or pipeline rupture occurs, the City Council has decided not to oppose the Pacific Pipeline, a 171-mile crude oil pipeline that will link Santa Barbara County with Los Angeles refineries.

More than 150 residents, school officials and labor representatives packed the council chambers last week to hear testimony about the pipeline. Labor union members in need of the jobs that pipeline construction will bring faced off against students, parents, teachers and other residents who fear the project is a health and safety hazard. The route of the project, which is expected to create 400 union jobs in Los Angeles County, is near at least seven school sites.

Last month, the city had prepared a resolution opposing the pipeline because of environmental concerns and potential interference with the Alameda Rail Corridor, a 20-mile freight line project that is expected to create 9,000 jobs. But the pipeline route was shifted, and the council ended up abandoning its original resolution and taking no formal position on the project.

Assemblywoman Martha M. Escutia (D-Huntington Park) had tried to rally community opposition to the project and flew in from Sacramento to urge the council to vote against it.

"Our community has already incurred its fair share of hazardous industry," Escutia said "Perhaps it's time to look at another route."

The project's "risks outweigh the benefits," added Ana Figueroa, a spokeswoman for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles).

Tom Rooney, project engineer with Pacific Pipeline Systems Inc., told the council that crude-oil pipelines had "a very, very good safety record" and said the city would not be liable for clean-up costs in the event of a spill.

If the pipeline is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission later this year, all cities involved will need to vote on whether to allow the project to pass through local land. The South Gate council is almost certain to give the pipeline right of way.

"I think it's important in this economy to keep as many jobs available as possible," said Mayor Mary Ann Buckles. "I feel that this pipeline is safe. Can it be guaranteed? Nothing can be guaranteed, unfortunately."

Councilmen Jerry Garcia and Johnny Ramirez also said they are likely to support the pipeline when it comes up for a final vote. Councilman Albert Robles said he will oppose it.

The city stands to make up to $15,000 annually in property taxes and up to $5,000 a year in franchise revenue if the project is approved.

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