Oil is at the center of our daily lives; it fuels our cars, powers our airplanes and is embedded in the plastics and other products we use day in and out. Its excavation is the stuff of tall tales, with "gushers" and boomtowns shaping our imagination. But many residents probably don't realize that Los Angeles rests on one of the largest urban oil fields in the country, and oil drilling remains an ongoing activity in the heart of many of our neighborhoods.
To the residents of the greater Baldwin Hills area, who see the pump jacks and drill rigs every day -- dotting the hillsides along La Cienega and Stocker -- urban oil extraction is a quotidian reality. The Inglewood Oil Field has been drilled since the 1920s, and communities grew up around the wells. But only in recent years have we begun to understand the serious effects drilling may have on public health.
In January 2006, noxious gases unexpectedly escaped from wells at the Inglewood Oil Field, causing widespread panic and some residents in adjacent communities, including Baldwin Hills, View Park and Blair Hills, to evacuate. Despite assurances from the oil company, Plains Exploration and Production Corp. (Read more...)