LOS ANGELES -- Yesterday, over 1,600 gallons, or 40 barrels, of oil spilled in the Inglewood Oil Field when a shipping pipe was left open. The latest spill occurred just a few hundred feet from the Kenneth Hahn Park Playground.
The Inglewood Oil Field is the largest urban oil field in the country and more than a million people live within five miles of its boundaries. Of the people living in the surrounding area, 52% are Black, a much higher percentage than the countywide 8%. This massive oil field is located alongside homes and schools, burdening families with air pollution and poor health outcomes including lung disease, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, nervous system damage, birth defects, and premature death. The rate of asthma related ER visits in Baldwin Hills is 4.4 times greater than the LA County average.
Inglewood Oil Field has a repeated history of spills. In 2019, a spill occurred when a pipe broke and the oil and contaminated water mixture traveled down a hill to a storm drain. In 2018, a containment tank spilled in the oil field, releasing a cloud of toxic benzene and exposing residents within 4,100 feet to a known carcinogen that reached almost seven times the EPA legal limit at the oil field fence line. In 2010, a methane seepage from the Inglewood Oil Field led to the closure of a Boneyard dog park. Two major toxic releases occurred in 2005 and 2006 causing residents to evacuate their homes because of the potential risks.
Jurisdiction over the Inglewood Oil Field is split between Culver City and Los Angeles County. Last year, Culver City council voted to phase out production and fully remediate the site in their portion of the field within the next five years. Their vote included important direction to protect both workers and communities as part of the just transition away from neighborhood oil drilling. Currently, the City of Los Angeles is considering the same approach. A motion to consider the phase out of oil drilling city-wide passed through the City Council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee on December 1, 2020 and will likely be taken up for vote at the Planning Land Use and Management Committee in the coming weeks.
It becomes increasingly urgent and apparent every single day: Los Angeles must take steps to phase out oil and gas production to protect the health of our communities.
In response, a coalition of community members, environmental justice advocates, and environmental groups released the following statements:
“Yesterday's oil spill is a deadly reminder that the environmental racism that’s shaped and harmed Black, Indigenous, and people of color continues to put our health at risk. A pattern of oil spills and the daily and ‘authorized’ toxic emissions both demonstrate that oil extraction is inherently dangerous practice that has no place in our region. We look forward to working with Los Angeles County to take immediate steps to phase out oil and gas production,” said Martha Dina Arguello, STAND-LA Coalition and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.
"Our hearts go out to the folks who were involuntarily exposed to the toxins and carcinogens released by this spill. Unfortunately, this incident is another in a long pattern of spills and other deadly mishaps at the Inglewood Oil Field. To protect the health and safety of its citizens, Culver City is already taking action to phase out oil operations in their portion of the Inglewood Oil Field. We call on Los Angeles County officials to do the same in the rest of the field," said David Haake, MD, chair of the Sierra Club's Clean Break Committee and community member living in proximity to the Inglewood Oil Field.
“More than 1,600 gallons of oil spilling in a predominantly Black neighborhood is exactly the kind of nightmare we see with neighborhood drilling. Communities like Baldwin Hills have been living with the dangers and health harms from oil drilling for generations. LA County needs to follow Culver City’s lead and immediately commit to phasing out drilling within five years,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
“What’s terrifying about health dangers like this is that the average person living nearby rarely has any way of knowing it even happened. This is an ongoing crisis we can’t keep sweeping under the rug - it’s time that the County commits to partnering with frontline communities and supporting the real solutions they are putting forward,” said Ethan Senser, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.