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Los Angeles's Urban Oil Wells Are Terrifyingly Under-Monitored

Los Angeles County has thousands of active oil wells, but it turns out that the ones in the LA basin—as in, LA's urban center—might not be getting the kind of oversight they need and legally are supposed to receive. The LA Times reports that an audit by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the state agency that regulates oil, has found that the agency's own Cypress-based office provided "inconsistent permitting, monitoring and enforcement of well construction and operation." That sounds bad, but the details are worse.

The list of findings uncovered by the internal audit is chock-full of the worst nightmares of the community activists who've spoken out against drilling in their neighborhoods for years. Like how the "comprehensive geologic and technical analysis of the oil field involved," which is required for oil projects, was actually only performed on 78 percent of projects, or that, since 2007, "most" of the projects didn't even get their annual review, which is also required.

When tests are performed, they probably aren't even working as they're intended: the review found that the procedures used to make sure drinking water sources aren't being contaminated by liquids injected into the soil "are inadequate and need to be updated." Records about the wells, including information that's critical to understanding whether or not a well is up to snuff, were missing or incomplete almost half the time. And, as the cherry on top of this disturbing sundae, "regulators relied on self-reported information from operators rather than on information the agency could independently verify" in order to complete reports.

The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources only performed this internal audit because of a "legal requirement"; they got in trouble with legislators last year because they didn't turned in reports for "several" years. A recently hired supervisor with the Division agreed that the report brought to light "systemic problems," but also added that "The division hasn't owned up to its responsibility as a regulator in the past. We are rapidly moving toward doing that."

But environmental advocates and activists find that a little hard to swallow when coupled with the fact that the Division had all the audit's information a year ago, but only just released the report yesterday. "State officials endangered California's drinking water by sitting on knowledge of this systemic failure of oil industry oversight for more than a year," a lawyer working with the Center for Biological Diversity says.
· Oil well oversight in L.A. Basin is 'inconsistent,' audit finds [LAT]
· Mapping All 3,000 of Los Angeles's Active Oil Wells [Curbed LA]
· There is Smelly and Maybe-Toxic Oil Drilling in University Park [Curbed LA]