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California City Sets Moratorium on Drilling

The city council in Carson, CA, a Los Angeles suburb located in the oil-producing area surrounding the Long Beach-LA Harbor, on Wednesday night set a 45-day ban on oil/natural gas drilling as it considers plans by Occidental Petroleum Corp. (Oxy) to step up directional drilling from a 6.5-acre site in the city. The ban could be extended up to two years.

Oxy has proposed drilling up to 202 new wells (two test, 130 production, 65 saltwater injection, four saltwater production, and one slurry injection) and build an oil/gas treatment facility and various water infrastructure. A draft environmental impact report that concludes the project would have no significant impacts is in the final days of a public comment period.

Residents speaking at the council meeting expressed concerns that Oxy would use hydraulic fracturing even though the company has repeatedly said is has no plans to do so at the site.

"There are too many questions, too many unknowns," said Councilman Al Robles, who proposed the temporary moratorium, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "I refuse to gamble with the health and well-being of the residents.”

A spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) said that other than the action taken by the city of Los Angeles recently (see Shale Daily, March 6), he was not aware of another jurisdiction that has elected to prohibit oil production.

"I think that [Carson's] action was more evidence that the issue of hydraulic fracturing in California has become entirely disconnected from the facts, experience and science associated with fracking," said WSPA's Tupper Hull. "There is not a shred of scientific or other evidence that hydraulic fracturing has ever adversely impacted the environment in any way in California."

Carson sits over the Dominguez Oilfield, which has had more than 600 wells drilled and 270 million bbl of crude produced since its founding in 1923. Oxy proposes to drill more than two miles deep and horizontally, estimating it can produce up to 6,000 b/d of oil and 3 MMcf/d of gas in the old field as it has been doing in recent years in the nearby Wilmington Field from sites offshore Long Beach.

“Directional drilling techniques will be used in order to pinpoint oil reservoirs at depths of 4,000 to 13,500 feet,” according to a summary on the Carson website. “The proposed project does not include the use of hydraulic fracturing.”

Oxy has proposed disguising and soundproofing the oil operations with 30-foot walls and enclosed structures that blend in with the surrounding industrial/commercial area in which it is located. Nevertheless, dozens of residents spoke at Wednesday's council meeting, urging the elected officials to adopt the moratorium.

According to news reports, the temporary ban also halts ongoing negotiations between the city and Oxy regarding the oil/gas giant's announcement last month that it is moving to Texas and spinning off its California operations into a separate company (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14). Those talks reportedly will not resume until the new California entity has been formed.

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