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

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.

  • Otto Khera

    Freeport-McMoRan acquired Phelps-Dodge (both of Phoenix) in 2007. Freeport-MMR are the ones who deplete local communities like Silver City, NM of wealth, using ‘cheap labor’, and then shipping the bulk of the wealth to places like Phoenix, New York, and LA. There appear to be no checks nor balances when it comes to energy and mineral extraction. http://www.fcx.com/operations/USA_NewMexico_Chino.htm

  • sahra

    Yes, apparently, they also worked a way to roll back environmental regulations in New Mexico, even getting the legislators to adopt their own language in the new regs. I saw one post on that, but couldn’t find anything else that confirmed it when I was poking around earlier, so I didn’t include that. But yeah, they’re not really wonderful folk…

  • Who Cars

    Beyond looking at the environmental impacts of these wells it is important to note that a lot of the oil and gas business in the U.S. today is not, in fact, profit-making drilling but is instead a house of cards being pumped up by “oil and gas companies” that have been sucking up investor money and then selling leases to drill instead of drilling. What kind of gas or oil is to be had here? Will this company be able to even make money doing what they allegedly want to do or are they just putting on a show with other peoples money to get more investment industry dollars to pump up their shares or help market themselves more?


  • sahra

    My thought — and I’m not alone in this — is that the acid stimulation approach is allowing them to access oil in wells that became unprofitable in the 90s and that lower-income neighborhoods are their laboratories. They’re testing out how profitable/viable an approach it can be in lower-income communities first to see if it can be done more widely. Given the number of currently dormant wells around the city, should it prove a profitable approach, it could be a goldmine.

    It’s a terrible thing, but it’s also an opportunity. After 9/11, the battle cry was “no more dependence on foreign oil!” Now we are beginning to see what the cost of that could be to us. Maybe that will finally be what forces us to rethink our dependence on fossil fuels, period.

    Probably not, but one can always hope.

  • andrew767

    Death and manipulating governments, that’s been the Freeport business model since the 1950s.


West Adams Neighbors Come Together to Oppose the Drillers Next Door

“So, those are not water trucks we see coming through the neighborhood?” asked an older gentleman enjoying the sunny Saturday afternoon with friends outside one of the men’s homes in the West Adams neighborhood. He was referring to the numerous heavy trucks ferrying enormous containers of acids and other drilling-related equipment and materials to the […]

“Our Fears Have Not Been Allayed”: The Limits of Regulatory Powers Over Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Techniques

“Qué significa ‘fracking’ en español?” the woman wearing a “People Not Pozos” shirt and a “Ban Fracking Now” sticker asked me. I scratched my head. Shouldn’t she know? I wondered. And, how exactly does one say, “Fracking is a ‘well stimulation treatment that…includes the pressurized injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid or fluids into an underground geologic […]

West Adams Neighbors Turn Out to Protest Activities at Drill Site; Studies of Environmental Impact of Unconventional Drilling Techniques Still Underway

Spring is the season for oiling, it seems. Over the last month, I’ve been opening my email every morning to see anywhere between 10 and 20 notices from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) advising me that wells across the county will be drilled, reworked, subjected to routine maintenance, or completed at some […]

The Week in Livable Streets Events

Now that the holidays are in our helmet mirror, the sausage making of transportation policy resumes with Metro Board Committee meetings. We’re also putting out save-the-dates for two Streetsblog events coming up in February. This Morning – Development Agreements are one of the most powerful entitlement processes, providing more flexibility and more certainty to the applicant, […]