Culver City passes resolution in support of facility shutdown

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The city of Culver City became the first municipality in California to pass an official resolution supporting a study to determine the feasibility of closing a natural gas facility in Playa Del Rey.

As the state continues to move towards alternative energy sources, oil fields and natural gas facilities have been subject to increased scrutiny over the past several years. For this particular facility, located at 8141 Guiana Ave., Playa Del Rey, the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) noted this facility as “particularly dangerous to the health and safety of people in Los Angeles” May of 2018. Since then, only the city of Los Angeles has made a resolution calling for a state study to explore the feasibility of shutting down the facility.

Vice Mayor Daniel Lee was the one who brought this resolution forward at the Feb. 22 city council meeting, citing his interactions with those affected by the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Facility blowout in 2015 as a primary driving force behind his ambition to pass this resolution.

This blowout had a significant impact on the local population. Residents in the area have reported headaches, nausea, skin rashes, and severe nosebleeds caused by the more than 97,000 tonnes of methane released by the leak. About 50 children per day saw school nurses for severe nosebleeds during the initial fallout, as well as an increase for eye, ear and throat infections. 

By Christmas of 2015, just over 2 months after the leak was discovered, more than 2,200 families from the Porter Ranch neighborhood had been temporarily relocated, and more than 2,500 households were still being processed. 

As of Jan. 7, 2016, 2,824 households, which translates to approximately 11,296 people, had been temporarily relocated by SoCalGas, while more than 6,500 families have filed for help. Two schools were relocated as a result of the leak.

Lee fears a similar blowout at the Playa Del Rey facility, stating that the effects would be massive in Culver City.

“This is not a theoretical exercise, Culver City will be impacted. That’s just the facts,” Lee stated.

According to Ethan Senser, who works as a community organizer with Food and Water Watch and spoke on the resolution, the Aliso Canyon facility was approximately two miles from the nearest home, while this Playa Del Rey facility may be as close as “a couple hundred feet” to the nearest home, prompting the CCST’s designation of the facility as dangerous.

Additionally, the facility has roots underneath the Ballona Wetlands, one of the only coastal wetlands in the area that has slowly been reduced to nothing by development. This situation can also increase the risk of flooding from the Wetlands.

The obsolete nature of the facility was demonstrated when it was forced to shut down for two years starting in 2011 due to leaks at wells across the site.

“From the climate impact, to the public safety impact, to the simple fact that this is a facility part of a much larger gas infrastructure and pipeline system that is causing damage across the United States…the fact this site only holds less than 1% of the state’s natural gas reserve, it is clear that a facility like this is incompatible with modern urban life,” Senser claimed.

The resolution passed 4-1, with councilmember Goran Eriksson as the lone dissenting vote. However, his disagreements came not so much from the resolution itself, but the idea of the resolution. Eriksson argued that focusing on this issue outside of Culver City’s jurisdiction with the other pressing issues at hand was a waste of time.

Lee rebutted that idea, arguing that these sorts of resolutions are normal in the Culver City council and in other local councils, and the danger it poses to Culver City does make it an important matter.

There will be a final vote on the specific action that the city should take regarding the Playa Del Rey facility at the March 8 city council meeting.