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When One Well Closes, God…er…Oil Corporations Open Another

5:22 PM PST on January 8, 2014

The Murphy Drill Site (bottom, right), located at 2126 Adams Blvd could play host to 3 new wells, should Freeport-McMoRan get their way. (Google Screen Shot)
The Murphy Drill Site (bottom, right), located at 2126 Adams Blvd could play host to 3 new wells, should Freeport-McMoRan get their way. (Google Screen Shot)

While the city may be busy doing what it can to see AllenCo's oil wells just north of USC permanently closed, neighbors have turned their attention to fighting another corporation's bid to drill several wells to the west of the campus.

Their first target is the Murphy Drill Site, located at 2126 Adams Blvd. (above) and which sits in close proximity to health centers, schools, a library, and housing complexes. It is not too far from a second problematic site at Jefferson and Budlong, which is similarly bordered by schools, residential neighborhoods, and USC.

Both sites are run by Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC (a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold), who took them over when they acquired PXP in May of last year. Freeport is currently seeking approval for requests to drill and/or re-open three wells at the Murphy site and, in the near future, perform similar operations at the Budlong one.

We Can Haz Oil. Screen shot of the Dept. of Conservation's map of oil wells. Available here.
We Can Haz Oil. Screen shot of the Dept. of Conservation's map of oil wells around L.A. Available here.

What worries residents is that Freeport doesn't have a history of being a great neighbor, even though they only acquired the sites 9 months ago.

This past September, community representatives sent a long letter to the zoning department detailing numerous violations, including the lack of required emergency information on their doors, photos of Freeport employees illegally painting curbs red, and complaints from neighbors about noise, terrible odors, the destruction of sidewalks by heavy company trucks illegally parked on them, and reports of crude oil occasionally being splashed on cars parked adjacent to the property.

Of course, this is all quite minor in comparison to Freeport's performance in other areas of the world.

Several years ago in Indonesia, a New York Times investigation found that the corporation had paid high-ranking members of the military (which had a terrible history of human rights violations) millions in bribes to shield the corporation from pressure to clean up their mining practices at the Grasberg Gold Mine in Papua. All while they used the region's rivers as dumps for millions of tons of their mine waste, devastating the local ecosystem (see images of the mine here or here).

KCET reported Freeport's reputation was so bad that, in 2012, they were nominated for "Worst Corporation on Earth" at the Public Eye Awards in Davos (see here for their discussion and the video)

Neighbors are concerned that Freeport's request to drill round-the-clock, seven-days-a-week, for several months at a time will bring irreparable harm to their community. Not only have some already reported being woken up by loud noises or the shaking of their homes, they are fearful of what they can't see.

The reliance of corporations like Freeport on acidization -- a technique that involves pumping thousands of gallons of harmful chemicals into wells to "melt" rocks and other obstructions in order to free up hard-to-reach oil -- means that heavy trucks carrying the toxic chemicals will be continually trundling past their schools, homes, churches, and parks. Moreover, the drilling of horizontal, rather than vertical, wells means the chemicals will be flowing directly beneath their homes. The fact that some consider the practice of acid stimulation to be one that is more environmentally destructive than fracking is not helping people sleep easier at night.

Determined not to let Freeport shirk their obligation to notify the public about drilling plans and practices or otherwise behave responsibly, neighbors have called an emergency meeting for this coming Saturday, January 11th. It will be held from 9 - 10 a.m. at the Holman United Methodist Church (3320 W. Adams Blvd., (323) 731-7285). Spanish translation will be provided.

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