Activists score key victory in Whittier drilling
More than 100 activists from the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and other environmental groups turned out in force last week to oppose 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 — and their voices didn't go unheard.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously against granting a land use change for the property in the California city that was purchased with funds from Prop 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.
Decades ago, Whittier received $9.3 million of Proposition A money from Los Angeles County that was used to obtain1,200 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 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.
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.