E&B’s rendering of its proposed oil drilling site. Courtesy of E&B Natural Resources
The city of Hermosa Beach has withdrawn the Health Impact Assessment for the proposed oil drilling project at the request of the consulting group who compiled the report.
The HIA, completed in February by consultants McDaniel Lambert, Inc., evaluated the potential health effects of the oil drilling project proposed at the city’s maintenance yard at Sixth Street and Valley Drive. The report found several possible negative health impacts, including a likely increase in mortality locally due to exposure to air pollution, increased traffic injury risks, and both mental and physical problems associated with the project’s odors.
“The odors anticipated from the presence of an oil production facility near homes will disrupt the outdoor beach lifestyle in the areas significantly impacted by odors,” the HIA stated. “Further, the compromise of independence associated with the outdoor lifestyle may give way to feelings of depression for some people.”
The report has been removed from the city’s website. City officials have said that any paper copies should be discarded and the report should no longer be referred to it as an official source of information. Unlike the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which was required by state environmental law, the city was not legally required to complete a health analysis.
In a letter to City Manager Tom Bakaly, consultant Mary McDaniel requested that the city withdraw the HIA because multiple sections needed revision after public comments were taken in February and March. McDaniel said it would be simpler to create a new draft of the HIA rather than issuing an addendum to the original version.
E&B Natural Resources, the company seeking to drill for oil in Hermosa Beach if the city’s ban is overturned by voters, opposed the report when it was released in February. E&B asked the city to retract and disavow the report, claiming that the HIA failed to address existing laws that regulate air, water and soil quality. The oil company also claimed that statements in the report were either not backed up by science or used untested methods for verification.
Though commissioned by the city, E&B funded the report, at a cost of $69,385.
E&B president Steven Layton expressed disappointment when the HIA was released.
“I do believe a Health Impact Assessment done correctly could be a valuable asset to the community trying evaluate the impact of a project,” Layton said. “Unfortunately, we believe this one has some shortcomings.”
In a statement, a representative for E&B said the company was happy that the report had been withdrawn.
“We are very pleased with the consultant’s own decision to go back and revisit several significant aspects of the report and correct the deficiencies in this important document,” Eric Rose, an E&B representative said.
Mayor Michael DiVirgilio said that while he wasn’t expecting the HIA to be withdrawn, he was glad that residents would be receiving upgraded information on the potential health effects of the proposed oil project.
“I’m pleased to see they’re doing what they need to do to give us the best possible report,” DiVirgilio said.
A citywide vote on the proposed oil drilling project could occur as soon as November.
Residents and members of the council addressed the withdrawal of the HIA at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Hermosa Beach resident James Sullivan said that if the HIA had been a science project completed by middle school students, it would have received a failing grade. He also said that the opportunity for oil drilling in the city would secure Hermosa Beach’s financial future for decades to come.
“It appears the authors have finally acknowledged that the work was shoddy,” Sullivan said.
Michael Collins, one of the founding members of Keep Hermosa Hermosa, a group that supports maintaining the ban on oil drilling, said he supported the HIA’s withdrawal if it leads to a more robust report. Collins also said that he was not surprised by E&B’s criticism of the HIA.
“It seems to me to be standard practice in the oil industry to attack health impact analyses as junk science,” Collins said.
Councilman Hany Fangary said that McDaniel Lambert has acknowledged that the original HIA made statements that were not accurate.
“I’m happy to have a study session with McDaniel Lambert to evaluate their revisions,” Fangary said.
The revised HIA will be available for public review sometime in early May.