Wayne Powell, mayor pro tem for Manhattan Beach, nearly fell out of his chair when he saw a recent E&B Natural Resources newspaper advertisement.
Under a large headline reading, “Right now there are over 5,000 active oil wells in the Los Angeles Basin” the ad showed a heavily dotted map of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Several dots were in the South Bay, including in Hermosa Beach Manhattan Beach. Text below the map names specific cities with active wells, such as Torrance and Long Beach, and notes oil recovery has been “proven to be safe form more than 75 years.”
A representative from the California Department of Conservation confirmed that there are more than 5,000 active wells in the Los Angeles area. But neither Hermosa nor Manhattan Beach has had an active well in decades.
Powell said he received at least a dozen phone calls and emails from residents after the ad ran in the Easy Reader and Beach Reporter on March 20. Many callers asked why the city of Manhattan Beach hadn’t informed them about the active oil wells where they lived.
“I don’t think this was an inadvertent error,” Powell said. “Someone needs to publish and say that this is not the case and at least in Manhattan Beach, there are no active oil wells.”
An email was sent to E&B on Wednesday signed by Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Thomas Howorth, asking the oil company to stop running the ad and to follow up with a correction in the newspapers in which the ad was originally published.
Michael Finch, vice president of health, safety, environmental affairs for E&B said that the ad was meant to show the past and present of oil drilling in the Los Angeles area. He said the company stands by the ad and has no plans to run a correction or clarification.
E&B Natural Resources is emphasizing oil’s history in the Los Angeles area in its ad campaign. This photo shows the oil derricks dotting the Hermosa Beach skyline in the 1920s.
Finch said that if people read all of the text and looked at the graphic, he didn’t think the ad gave the impression that the map showed only active oil wells. He noted that E&B didn’t list Manhattan Beach in the part of the ad that names current, active oil wells.
“The graphic is presented to show not only the active oil wells, but all oil wells in the Los Angeles Basin,” Finch said. “People have the idea that there’s no drilling in the Los Angeles Basin, but we wanted to show that there has been a substantial history of oil wells.”
Scott Frantz, a longtime Hermosa Beach resident, said that while the wording in the E&B advertisement says one thing, the graphic says something else.
“It’s misleading,” Frantz said. “It’s too blatant to be just an oversight or an error.”
Frantz said that the oil company should print a corrective ad that’s as big as the original full-page ad.
Doug Collins, another Hermosa Beach resident, said that the ad oversimplified the issue and was intentionally misleading.
“It’s saying: Oh see, everyone has an oil well in their backyard, what’s your problem?” Collins said.
Collins also said that the ad glosses over the environmental impact oil drilling in Hermosa Beach would have as well as concerns over health and quality of life.
Michael Divirgilio, mayor of Hermosa Beach, said it was unfortunate that E&B had produced what he described as a misleading advertisement.
“This is not the first, nor will it be the last of misleading information about this project,” Divirgilio said. “The city is working hard to produce factual information and expects the same from everyone involved in the conversation.”