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Whittier Gung Ho on Drilling for Oil On Huge Nature Preserve

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Whittier is embroiled in a messy legal battle over plans to drill for oil on a site formerly owned by Chevron USA, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The complication comes from a 1995 deed restriction on the 960 acre property--part of the deal that transferred the land to the city to be conserved as open space. Now the city wants to extract oil and natural gas on 20 acres of the land, "just yards from Catalina Avenue," in a partnership with Matrix Oil Corp. and Clayton Williams Energy, Inc. The proposal has proceeded despite the objections of the state Department of Justice, Open Space Legal Defense Fund and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the latter of which sold the land to the city back in 1995. The city's desire to drill on the land is also complicated by the language of Proposition A--the city used $1.7 million of the 1992 LA County voter-approved bond money to purchase the 960 acres. The city's most recent action asked the city attorney to remove the deed restriction, which prohibits development on the property. Opponents say that the deed restriction was to last for perpetuity and supporters claim the deed restriction should have expired 12 years ago. Opponents of the project have already sued "for breach of contract, and violations of Prop. A, the Public Trust Doctrine and the California Environmental Quality Act," according to SGVT.

Project opponents have promised more lawsuits following the most recent action, while Chevron, the originator of the deed restriction, has agreed to lift it. The company might use the action as a bargaining chip for future projects: "Chevron may use the approval and a future conservation easement on the property as a 'mitigation' chip with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the oil company to pursue other projects elsewhere."
· Whittier lifts deed restriction on oil land - draws ire of Department of Justice [San Gabriel Valley Tribune]
· Whittier Councilman OK With Drilling on Land He Made Into Preserve [Curbed LA]