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"He said the oil money will help keep the toilets clean and the parks supervised for visitors who use MRCA-managed parks throughout the county." That's the rationale for a public parks agency to sell out a blue collar community and using taxpayer money earmarked for parks to keep on drilling...with a cut to the parks agency.

This deal is Texas-bad. But it's happening in California.

A few years ago, Los Angeles County voters approved Proposition A - bonds to purchase parkland. The city of Whittier, a mostly blue-collar community in southeast Los Angeles County, bought land with Proposition A money, vowing to keep it as open space in perpetuity. Then oil companies came calling. Deals were cut with city officials. Drilling began. City officials tried explaining to worried residents that Matrix Oil would only destroy 7 acres of parkland (not counting the roads to get there and the wildlife habitat corridors that would be crossed by oil tankers and the noise and the dust and the spills). Protests were organized. Lawsuits were filed.

Among the lawsuits: Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy were quite successful, for a time. They won their case. Then something changed. Appeals were threatened. Adversaries became allies. More deals were cut. Thursday, a settlement was announced in which the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority agreed to accept $650,000 in attorneys fees as well as a portion of the city’s oil revenues, up to $11.25 million a year or about $280 million for the life of the project.

whittier-oilThe Santa Monica Mountains are bordered on all four sides with money. Several years ago, I attended a glitzy fundraiser in which Jared Diamond spoke to the well heeled crowd. But its director now tells local press that "his small group could no longer fight Big Oil and decided taking the deal would help all the parks under his care."

One wonders if he'd be as quick to settle-and-drill if the parkland were in pricey Pacific Palisades rather than working class Whittier.

On July 22, I testified before the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy board to ask that the proposed settlement be rejected. So did a dozen Whittier residents, many driving two hours from Whittier to Agoura. Board members fidgeted, paced, disregarded passionate testimony, leaving me with the distinct impression that nothing I said mattered. Now, the deal is nearly done, and the Los Angeles Times reports on saddened, duped, and dismayed activists: "We expect the government to uphold what we vote for."

Most of the parks administered by MRCA and SMMC are in the Malibu area, west of Los Angeles' wealthy Westside. The Whittier-Puente Hills parks are among the few in the poorer sections of the county. The Whittier-Puente Hills parks are now going to be drilled so that Westside parks' toilets can be kept clean.

Whittier residents' only hope: the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which has not settled with Matrix Oil. Sign this petition to tell the Board of Supervisors: no oil drilling in Whittier open space.

If you're in Los Angeles, come to the Los Angeles County board of supervisors meeting and speak out for parkland and against settlement:

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2013, 9:30 A.M.


Whittier Hills Oil Watch has more on what to expect at the Tuesday supervisors' meeting.

If you can't come to the meeeting: sign this petition to tell the Board of Supervisors: no oil drilling in Whittier open space.

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