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Still Drilling on Planned Baldwin Hills Park Land, Despite Shady Regulation

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[Image via Baldwin Hills Conservancy]

The Associated Press has gotten its hands on some sleazy-sounding old emails sent from a state engineer to the oil company he was supposed to be regulating. Floyd Leeson's messages to Plains Exploration & Production Co., which owns drilling rights to the Inglewood Oil Field in Baldwin Hills, include the cheerleadery "I will TRY to keep (my boss) from hitting you guys with any more retarded fines ... Remember, I'm on YOUR side ... go PXP!" He also sped up permits for new wells and owned stock in the company. The state auditor investigated Leeson and found he'd misused his position, and he later resigned.

For years residents have thought that drilling was winding down in Baldwin Hills, and have approved a bond to buy some of the oil field and incorporate it into their One Big Park plan. That plan, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates and Hood Design, calls for a huge two square mile park joined by a half mile land bridge over La Cienega. It would include protected and restored natural lands, trails, a golf course, visitor and education centers, and an amphitheater. But when PXP bought the field's drilling rights they started using 3-D imaging to find new oil and water injection to get at harder to reach oil, and began upping production in 2004.

Community and environmental groups have filed a lawsuit that the AP says is expected to go to trial in April. They're asking for "a comprehensive health study, decreasing the number of wells the company can drill per year and requiring the company to drill farther away from residential areas." They also allege environmental racism, claiming the "Inglewood field has not been cleaned up or disguised as oil fields have been in wealthy white sections of of Los Angeles."

The AP says the park plan has been delayed, and that a PXP vice president says "We're not willing to leave so this can be turned into a park."
· Regulators accused of lax oversight at LA oilfield [AP]
· Documents [Baldwin Hills Conservancy]