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Idled Oil Well Site Near Los Angeles Considered for Restart

A controversial urban oil drilling site south of downtown Los Angeles is being reactivated by AllenCo Energy Inc., the same operator that shut the site in 2013 amid growing concerns from nearby residents.

Whether operations by AllenCo will resume is unclear, but the company submitted plans to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) earlier this year. The plans outline resuming oil production operations at the St. James Lease, part of the Las Cienegas oilfield near the University of Southern California (USC) campus.

In addition to state permits, the site would need to pass inspections by the Los Angeles Fire Department before operations could resume. AllenCo declined to comment.

"AllenCo's plans are under review by the division, along with recent tests of the facility's pipelines and tanks," said DOGGR spokesperson Don Drysdale. "AllenCo will be expected to correct any documents or tests found out of compliance with state law before the site is restarted.

"The division is having regular conference calls with other regulatory agencies, and even if AllenCo's documents are deemed adequate, inspections involving the city fire department and DOGGR would have to take place before operations could resume." A reopening is not imminent, he said.

According to reports, the site is expected to reopen Oct. 15 for daily operations.

AllenCo's latest move comes at a time when other urban operators are closing or rethinking their operations in the face of complaints from stakeholders. In August, Denver-based Sentinel Peak Resources (SPR) notified Los Angeles city officials that it intended to transform an oil and gas drilling site in a working class neighborhood near the USC campus. The privately held producer last year was ordered by Los Angeles officials to follow new, more stringent well site requirements, which SPR had challenged in a lawsuit.

Five years ago, AllenCo was under increasing community and political pressure when it agreed to shut down operations, saying it would use the pause in drilling to improve its operations.

DOGGR engineers raised a number of concerns about AllenCo's initial startup plans, submitted last March, offering a detailed 14-point checklist for the company to complete, covering, among other things, its staffing, emergency and traffic plans at the site.

"The startup plan, as submitted, is lacking significant information necessary for the division to evaluate AllenCo's preparedness to resume operations," DOGGR's Chris McCullough wrote in a letter last July to AllenCo Executive Vice President Tim Parker.

Parker was also told in the letter that the testing of pipelines and tanks at the site were outdated. "Out-of-service production facilities shall not be reactivated unless all needed repairs have been completed and the production facility is in compliance with all applicable testing and inspection requirements," McCullough wrote.

 

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