Inglewood Oil Field in Culver City will have fewer wells and tighter regulations after Culver City environmental and community groups settled a suit against Plains Exploration & Production and Los Angeles County.
The Texas-based oil company will reduce the number of new wells in the field from 600 to 500 through 2028 and has agreed to additional air quality monitoring, noise limits and improved landscaping.
"Those who live near the oil field will see fewer wells, hear less noise from drilling and have in place stronger air quality protection than exist today," said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the field.
Other concessions include commissioning a comprehensive health study to measure the effects of oil development, decreasing the number of wells drilled per year and conducting drilling farther away from sensitive areas, such as residential neighborhoods and schools. PXP also agreed to reduce drilling rigs on the field from three to two, screen off less attractive parts of the field and remove old equipment that has become an eyesore for residents.
Although the oil company has yet to engage in hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," the agreement requires the company to determine the effects that the extraction technique could have on the surrounding area. The company will also look into implementing clean technology, strengthening well-abandonment standards and will commit to ongoing cleanup of the oil field.
The case began in 2006, after PXP's drilling operations vented noxious fumes that swept across nearby neighborhoods and forced residents to evacuate. The Culver City community urged the county to implement stronger health and safety regulations for the oil field, which began production in 1924 but had largely been dormant for many years.
As a result, the county issued a six-month moratorium on drilling while it worked to develop regulations.
In 2008, several community groups filed suit after the county approved hundreds of new wells over a period of 20 years. The groups filed four lawsuits, which eventually combined into one, settled Tuesday.
Many residents had come to believe that the oil field was tapped out and winding down operations. However, in 2004, PXP began securing drilling rights for three new wells in the field, which lies primarily in the unincorporated Baldwin Hills area southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Residents and activists immediately opposed the move, noting that the population had mushroomed dramatically since oil drilling began decades ago. Today, more than a million people live within five miles of the field. It is also near a Culver City park used by youth soccer and baseball teams.
"In some cases, drilling is happening within a few hundred feet of residences," said Damon Nagami, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which represented one of the litigants. "There must be better protections for people confronted by ongoing drilling operations in densely populated communities."
The deal came after more than a year of negotiation, said David E. Cranston, an attorney representing Culver City. The accord will benefit the community and PXP, which was not forced to abandon drilling, he said.
"By reducing the impact of drilling on the surrounding community," Cranston said, "it will reduce opposition to drilling and potential issues that arise."
Scott Winters, spokesman for PXP, said the company was "pleased that Los Angeles County announced a resolution to the lawsuit."
"The settlement … helps shift the focus to constructive dialogue and a more effective working relationship between the county, PXP, residents and community organizations," Winters said.