Club opposes drilling plan for land in Whittier set aside as parkland

Sunday, September 29, 2013
From Angeles Chapter reports

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter strongly opposes a plan to allow oil drilling in the Whittier Hills on land that was purchased by the city and supposed to be preserved as open-space parkland.

Club policy strictly forbids drilling and oil development on preserved lands. The land earmarked for drilling was purchased using funding from Proposition A, a 1992 bond measure that allocated $540 million of public money for Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Tree-Planting, Senior and Youth Recreation Beaches and Wildlife Protection. To allow drilling on this property would set a precedent that could result in other regions, also bought with Proposition A money, to be exposed to future development—and not protected as voters had intended.

Land purchased with bond money

Whittier received $9.3 million of Proposition A money from Los Angeles County that was used to obtain 1,200 acres of land to be preserved as open space. Approximately 960 acres of that space was bought from Chevron, which had used the land for oil production, and the land is currently under the management of the Native Habitat Authority. It's part of the open space wildlife corridor being developed to extend parklands from the Montebello Hills through the Whittier Narrows region into the Puente Chino Hills to the Santa Ana Mountains. The bond measure included $540 million of public money for such acquisitions.

The city of Whittier is now attempting to use approximately 14 acres of this Prop. A-acquired land for oil drilling and development through leases negotiated with Matrix Oil and Clayton Williams Energy in 2008. Three lawsuits currently exist against Whittier over this issue, including those brought by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) and  Los Angeles County. 

This protected land is managed by the Puente Hills Native Habitat Authority and is part of a wildlife corridor being developed from the Whittier Narrows through the Puente Hills and on to the Santa Ana Mountains. The proposed vehicle access to the drill site is through the core habitat of the preserved area. The roadway with fire clearance will require a 40-foot-wide swath to be cut through prime vegetation and breeding areas in the preserve.

Lawsuits seek to halt drilling

On August 15, the MRCA accepted a settlement with the city that pays the agency $650,000 in attorney’s fees plus a portion of city oil revenues up to $11.5 million dollars per year—estimated to be about $280 million over the life of the project. The SMMC dropped their suit. The legal action brought by the county, however, is still pending.

The settlements must be approved by L.A. Superior Court. This will take place in front of the same judge who previously told Matrix oil to get off the property when the company began clearing a couple of months ago. No one knows how the court will decide, activists say. What happens next with the lawsuit by Los Angeles County will be determined by the County Board of Supervisors. The project cannot go forward without their approval, but the supervisors could take action to approve or stop the project in coming weeks.

Money for parks, not drilling

The Club's concerns are that these lands were bought with Prop A money and were to be kept as open space in perpetuity—not to be used for oil drilling.  It would set a terrible precedent for future projects to be able to buy their way out of protected status. 



The land bought with Prop A money was to be kept as open space in perpetuity!!

Property purchased for public preservation should not be used for anything but that. Oil drilling is about as far opposite as you can get for what the purpose of this land purchase was intended. Do not allow this, this dangerous precedent, if allowed would lead to the destruction of other public lands.

NO absolutely No drilling on public park land!!!

Prop A was passed for parkland to be preserved, not for industrial uses. A criminal investigation should take place to discover why the city of Whittier entered into an agreement that violates the intention of Prop A, who the players were, and what benefit they received for this violation of the public trust.

Seriously, what's wrong with these guys?

What turn coats the MRCA turn out to be. Open space above all, the money that will be given to the MRCA will not be use in the east side of the county, better parks and open space for the
west side , how nice, it's time we in the east side stand up and fight for our rights. OPEN SPACES above all, and by the way get rid of the people responsible for signing away the land. THEY are not trust worthy.

The reason OIL COMPANIES seem to believe they can drill anyplace they want is politicians. People simply can not stop yammerinig about high gasoline prices to their elected officials, so the elected officials give the green light to the oil drillers to drill here, there and everywhere.

City of Whittier and Oil companies; you can't drill on land bought with public money because that land is set aside as a preserve, not for drilling.

The land was purchased in good faith as open space not to be sold off as an oil drilling site. To often the government leases public land to companies like this to make a profit not thinking about the harm this will cause.

A few years ago I attempted to avoid traffic on 5 north by cutting over towards the coast. The result was a close view of a tattered and tarry part of California that we are unaware of. The ruin that is left behind must surely require a costly clean-up. For anyone who has not driven through "Oilville" this should be required before being allowed to dedicate more motherearth to the greatest, quickest profit possible.

I object to the proposed oil drilling on the public's park land acquired to preserve open space. now is the time to seek alternative energy sources and do what we can to preserve open space. I grew up in Whittier and have seen it go downhill over my lifetime with unsightly development and poor planning. Allow those in WHittier to have a small amount of open space for recreation and wildlife! Whittier's legacy should not include hastening global warming unnecessarily.

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