Eyesore Oil Rigs/Pipes Will Disappear Over One To Two Decades, Wetlands North of 2nd St. (b/w PCH/Studebaker) Will Be Restored To Its Natural Beauty And Conveyed Public Ownership, As Coastal Comm'n Votes Issue splits usually allied enviro/wildlife/wetlands advocates
Issue splits usually allied enviro/wildlife/wetlands advocates
|(Dec. 13, 2018) -- Eyesore oil rigs/pipes will disappear over one to two decades; the oil-field degraded wetlands north of 2nd St. between PCH and Studebaker will be restored to its natural beauty and transferred to public ownership and an oil firm that has pledged to do this now has a Coastal Development Permit to drill 120 new slant drilled wells from two nearby locations.
As flashed on LBREPORT.com's front webpage and our Facebook page, at 4:40 p.m. today (Dec. 13) the CA Coastal Comm'n voted
The approval vote capped a dramatic, polarized discussion that began at 10:53 a.m. (included break for lunch) in which usually allied environmental/open space/wildlife advocates presented passionate but polarized testimony for and against the proposal.
Coastal Commission staff acknowledged verbally (as it did in its written report) that the project isn't consistent with the Coastal Act, but said the Commission has authority to override this in allowing the project, citing "the public welfare" and noting the wetlands restoration proposed in the coastal zone likely otherwise wouldn't take place.
Coastal Commission member (and LB Councilman) Roberto Uranga (appointed to the Coastal Commission by the state Senate Rules Committee (Dem majority leadership) March 2015, reappointed May 2017) made the motion to approve. Commissioner Uranga said that as LB Councilmember [re-elected June 2018] and as a member of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, he had opportunities to review the project several times and noted both bodies had approved it. He emphasized that the project would restore a large degraded wetlands area that had been privately controlled and put it into public hands.
Supporters included the non-profit Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust with Exec. Dir. Elizabeth Lambe among those speaking in support, saying the project would provide meaningful and long-term positive impacts. A representative of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust also spoke in support, along with speakers from a multiple Audubon groups Individuals speaking in support spanned the political spectrum, from nearby resident (and Mayor-chosen LB Parks/Rec Comm'r and active LB Repub) Ben Goldberg to LB Grey Panthers activist Karen Reside (who generally supports left-progressive positions.) Also speaking in support were Tom Mays of the LB Marina Boat Owners Ass'n and Lucy Johnson.
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Mayor Robert Garcia spoke in support, saying the proposal offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the wetlands (and said the City of LB had been an environmental leader, citing its plastic bag and styrofoam bans, the Port's policies and support for "multi-modal" transportation."
3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price (current chair of Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority) spoke in support, saying the project would have multiple long-term benefits in terms of the wetlands and in utilizing newer equipment with higher safety standards.
Former LB Mayor Bob Foster said that as former So. Cal Edison president, he hoped that the company's conveyance years ago of the 2nd St./Studebaker parcel would eventually be put to good environmental use. Foster said he's a strong supporter of environmental policies that reduce carbon footprint and has driven an electric vehicle for 15 years...and said he wouldn' come here if the project didn't provide "extraordinary environmental benefits. He added that if the project isn't approved, the wetlands won't be restored for decades.
Also speaking in support was former 3rd dist. Councilman Gary DeLong. Assemblyman (and former Councilman) Patrick O'Donnell also supported the project in written testimony read by an aide.
Opponents included Ann Cantrell, speaking on behalf of Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP) and the Sierra Club. Ms. Cantrell asked the Commission to deny the Coastal Development Permit and grant a postponement until results of required soil testing are reviewed and a mitigation bank is approved.
Ms. Cantrell delivered a Power Point presentation that drew plaudits from Roy Van De Hoek, a biologist who spoke later in the hearing, said her testimony was "spot on" and called Ms. Cantrell a "citizen scientist."
Ms. Cantrell opened her remarks by noting she was a former boardmember of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust and is an Audubon member, but said bluntly that the proposal isn't a wetlands restoration project but is an oil drilling project. In twelve minutes of testimony, Ms. Cantrell enumerated issues cited in a Coastal Commission staff report including staff's acknowledgment that project isn't consistent with the Coastal Act, would create 70,000 additional metric tons of greenhouse gases, and in a worst case scenario might create a catastrophic oil spill risk from its adjacency to the Newport-Inglewood fault. Regarding the oil drilling, Ms. Cantrell said: "Leave it in the ground." Ms. Cantrell also cited the prospect of sea level rise and suggested that re-injecting water into the ground might trigger seismic activity.
A representative of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club said their group could never approve a project inconsistent with the Coastal Act. CARP member (and April 2018 5th dist. Council candidate) Corliss Lee and Dr. Charles Moore also spoke in opposition. Also speaking in opposition: Marcia Hanscom of the Ballona Institute, a veteran coastal wetlands supporter. Ms. Hanscom acknowledged she has friends on both sides of the issues, and said there were good aspects to the projects, but overriden by negative aspects and thus favored delay or denial.
Two groups representing indigenous people who historically occupied the land were split over the proposal.
As part of the applicant's rebuttal time, Eric Zahn of Tidal Influence (a consultant to the co-applicant Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority) cited his years of experience in dealing with the Los Cerritos wetlands and said the project is the only feasible way he knows to restore the wetlands with gain public ownership of the land. He said a Commission vote against the project could set off a "domino effect" deterring similar restorations. A Beach Oil Minerals spokesperson also quoted staff's stated justification for recommending the override which was "the public welfare."
Also as part of its rebuttal, the applicant's spokesperson responded to Ms. Cantrell's concern over possibly inducing seismic activity on the Newport-Inglewood fault by citing an L.A. Times story which indicated scientists consider this unlikely.
Following public testimony, Coastal Commission staff said the issue isn't oil vs. not oil because oil drilling would continue -- using old equipment with less stringent safety standards -- if the Coastal Commission didn't approve the project. Staff said the new oil drilling equipment is state of the art and has "all the bells and whistles."
Coastal Commission staff acknowledged (as it did in its written report) that the project isn't consistent with the Coastal Act, but said the Commission has authority to find overriding considerations in allowing the project, including "the public welfare" on grounds the wetlands restoration proposed in the coastal zone wouldn't otherwise be feasible.
Commissioner Luevano asked staff questions about other regulatory agencies' timelines. Commissioner Escalante raised the issue of sea level rise and cited recent articles about climate change. Short of a hard "no," Escalante made a motion to postpone a decision, she said to give the public additional time to comment. Commissioner Groom said the project is about oil, and a continuance would allow a chance to work out other long term plans.
Commission chair Dayna Bochco said it is an oil project, and a bigger oil project, and asked about the possibility of fewer than the 120 new slant drilled wells; staff indicated it assumes the applicant considers this economically infeasible. Commission chair Bochco asked if the 70,000 tons of additional greenhouse gases are analogous to Port air pollution. Port staff said the wetlands project area isn't considered an environmental justice area and noted SCAQMD is OK with the project. Commission chair Bochco said she has faith in Coastal Comm'n staff which wouldn't recommend something harmful to the environment. Commissioner Vargas said he prefers a vote on the main motion to a continuance. The motion for a postponement/continuance failed 2-7.
The Commission then moved to the main motion by Commissioner Uranga to approve...which carried 6-3 (Luevano, Escalante and Groom, with three Commission voting members not present) .
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