Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Judge halts Whittier Hills oil drilling project; FBI raids local state senator's Sacramento office

Here at the Friends we follow events that impact the environment or governance, locally and beyond. Last week brought news of two events, one a long-hoped-for court decision on a local environmental matter, the other an unexpected federal law enforcement action targeting a local state representative. 

The environment . . . 

It appears the plans of the city of Whittier and its petroleum company partners to exploit taxpayer-purchased open space in the Whittier Hills for oil and profit will not go forward.
"When the parties say we want this for open space, that is inconsistent with having an oil derrick on it." -- Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant
The Whittier Daily News' Steve Scauzillo reported June 6 that Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant "halted the controversial oil and gas exploration project under way in the Whittier Hills, ruling the city of Whittier is acting against the wishes of Los Angeles County voters who paid for the land to be preserved in perpetuity as open space."

"When the parties say we want this for open space," Scauzillo reported the judge saying from the bench, "that is inconsistent with having an oil derrick on it." 

Scauzillo reported that local opponents celebrated the decision. The project had been opposed by organizations and officials such as Whittier Hills Oil Watch, conservation groups, the county, and the state attorney general since 2008.

The decision could leave things hot and contentious for Whittier leadership. Scauzillo reported June 7 that the city may have opened itself to lawsuits stemming from the decision.

WHOW representatives said the plaintiffs might sue for damages, and the city's oil industry partners might also sue.

WHOW representatives also said their group was looking at the possibility of a recall of city council members. 

. . . and the FBI raid 

Also last week, the FBI raided the Sacramento offices of state Sen. Ron Calderon, who represents the Montebello area and is part of an influential political family dynasty. 

The family has financial ties to one of the San Gabriel River Discovery Center partner agencies, Central Basin Municipal Water District.

The feds are keeping tight-lipped on the raid and investigation. The Los Angeles Times reported June 4 that a FBI spokesperson "said all information related to the nature of the search was sealed and the agency could not discuss it."

On Monday, the Times reported that Calderon had broken his silence regarding the raid, saying that he would focus on doing his job. 

"My intention at this point is to do my job that I was elected to do," he said, "attend my hearings, get my bills passed out of committee to the floor, and do the work of the state."

Based on information from other Southern California officials, the Times said it was possible the investigation was looking at "a group of healthcare companies that have fought restrictions . . . and have paid Calderon's brother Tom, a former lawmaker himself, tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees since leaving the Legislature."

The paper also said "officials have said they've been interviewed by the FBI about contracts that had been awarded by the Central Basin Municipal Water District to Tom Calderon."

No comments:

Post a Comment