Ryah Cooley

Hermosa city council certifies environmental report on oil drilling project

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Two banners hanging over Michael Collins' home, which protest the project, can be seen across the street from the city yard, the proposed location for the oil drilling project in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Isaac Arjonilla, staff photographer.

Two banners hanging over Michael Collins’ home, which protest the project, can be seen across the street from the city yard, the proposed location for the oil drilling project in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Isaac Arjonilla, staff photographer.

 

The Hermosa Beach City Council voted unanimously to certify the final environmental impact report for E&B Natural Resource’s proposed oil drilling project at its meeting Tuesday.

In spite of the oil company’s protests that more time is needed to consider additional mitigations to improve the report, city council members voted to certify it. According to city staff, the city gave 60 days for public comment regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report, when only 45 days were required by law. The city is also in the process of finalizing a cost benefit analysis and health impact report for the oil drilling project, though the environmental impact report is the only document of the three that is legally required.

“We’re not hurrying up,” councilman Hany Fangary said. “This has taken too long. We’ve taken long enough to do it right.”

The city and E&B Natural Resources signed a settlement agreement in 2012 that would allow E&B to call for an election to lift Hermosa’s ban on oil drilling. If successful, the ballot measure would allow E&B to install 30 oil wells at the city’s 1.3-acre maintenance yard.

The agreement calls for the city to repay E&B $17.5 million if the ballot measure fails. E&B loaned the money to the city to help settle a lawsuit with Macpherson Oil. At the time, the city was facing up to $500 million in damages for having restored a ban on oil drilling in 1995 after entering into a lease agreement with Macpherson to allow oil drilling from the city maintenance yard in 1992.

If the project is approved, the city could receive $118 million to $270 million over the 35 years of the project’s life, and Hermosa Beach schools would receive $1.2 million to $2.2 million, according to the cost benefit analysis prepared for the city by Kosmont Cos.

The final environmental impact report, compiled by the consulting firm Marine Research Specialists, was made available to the public last month. The city has also commissioned a health impact assessment and cost benefit analysis on the project from other firms, which city staff say are on track to be finalized later this month. Of the three documents, the environmental impact report is the only one that is legally required to be completed as part of the California Environmental Quality Act process. The city has also been in talks with E&B to negotiate a development agreement in the event that voter approve oil drilling.

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