New Whittier Oil Exploitation Pollution Threatens Whittier College Students

Matrix Oil Corp., based in Santa Barbara, looks set to extract oil on City of Whittier land located approximately one mile upwind of the Whittier College campus. Matrix Oil's Santa Barbara neighbor, non-profit Los Padres ForestWatch, warns us of the consequences of profiting from oil extraction in California's hills, even those some distance from human communities:

"Drilling requires a vast network of roads, pipelines, transmission wires, and other infrastructure. While the footprint of this infrastructure may be relatively small, the impacts spill across a much larger area. A single oil derrick can ruin the views of an entire landscape, a narrow pipeline can bisect an entire watershed, and air pollution can extend as much as 200 miles from a drilling site." - 'Myths & Facts About the Los Padres Oil & Gas Drilling Decision', prepared by Los Padres ForestWatch.

"Matrix is looking to expand the oil drilling about one mile north of campus on Honolulu Terrace. A lone oil derrick exists on the hill flanked by storage tanks across the street, but one day may become hundreds," writes Quaker Campus' Neal Behrendt in the student paper's 4/10/08 issue.

"The Whittier, recreation, and housing. ...oil derricks would damage all three by polluting and disrupting the area," observes Behrendt. "When the City purchased the 1,200 acres...they had to remove hundreds of oil derricks."

According to Behrendt, The City of Whittier "is willing to sell 1,200 acres for an expected revenue of $600,000 per year." This municipal income less than that received annually by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the City of Beverly Hills for oil pumped out from under the Beverly Hills High School campus, and adjacent area by slant drilling, and the Beverly Hills experience is instructive...

There have been many lawsuits against Venoco Inc., the best-known involving Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry, on behalf of former BHHS students who blame their early cancers on pollution from Venoco's Beverly Hills oil and gas operation. While cancer-stricken former students have failed to prevail in their lawsuits, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has fined Venoco Inc., after issuing three notices of violations by the company, and the AQMD has ordered complete cessation of oilfield gases venting, and continuous monitoring, to be paid for by Venoco, of the air affected by any such release. In 2007, Joy Horowitz's book on Beverly Hills oil and lawsuits, Parts Per Million: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High School, was published.

The Mayor of Whittier, Owen Newcomer, is also a faculty member at Whittier College, and he has greater political ambitions. If Mayor Newcomer doesn't have the leadership abilities to put a stop to this new oil deal, to protect his students and constituents, then he should abandon his then overambitious political plans. And let's not forget for a moment who calls the shots in Whittier... If Whittier College wants this oil deal stopped, it'll be stopped; and, if the deal goes through, then it's with Whittier College's blessing.

And remember, too, that it was local oil money that underwrote Dick Nixon's political ambitions from their beginning to beyond the (local oilmen's Nixon slush) Fund or Checkers Speech; it seems, sadly, safe enough to put your wager on Whittier endangering student and all community members' health for some money, which will likely end up paying for only part of the consequent lawsuits against the City of Whittier and Matrix Oil.

The heirs apparent of Whittier, the city's Latino majority, unable so far to put a single Latino on the lily white Whittier City Council, are going to find there's nothing more left to them than was left to African-Americans inheriting so many U. S. urban cores. Whittier College's strategy? Finding new suckers in mainland China?

'Toxic School?' A CBS Special Assignment Investigation:

Photo of Beverly Hills High School campus oil derrick, ironically beautified by young cancer patients:

'Crude Awakening Arises at Burning Man' by Lane Hartwell. August 29, 2007. Bigger than life performance art:

'Myths & Facts About The Los Padres Oil & Gas Drilling Decision' prepared by Los Padres ForestWatch based in Santa Barbara:


Usually a small liberal arts college in a small town is a case of a liberal college and a conservative town, but in the case of Whittier College and Whittier - despite the fact that Whittier is racist and corrupt (this Latino-majority town's city council is composed of four White males and one White female), the 'Whittier Daily News' is still arguably a product of journalism, while Whittier College's 'Quaker Campus' student paper / web site is staffed by either manipulated administration tools or sellouts - either way resulting in a product decidedly less than journalistic in nature.

One Von-Paul Cook's 'Potential liquid gold causes stir' article in 'Quaker Campus' (2-17-11) is completely misleading, dishonest, and shameful. Cook quotes local ex-Chevron exec Ray Schmidt claiming that oil under the Whittier Hills can be extracted, processed, and transported with no problems. Cook not only didn't look into Schmidt's and Chevron's history of exploiting oil in Whittier, which includes numerous problems, including an explosion adjacent to residential Honolulu Terrace, but Cook sought no other expert opinions. Even the local 'Whittier Daily News' did that, in one of a series of articles on this issue, 'Experts disagree over health issues from Whittier oil-drilling proposal' (12-11-10) by reporter Mike Sprague, even though Sprague's article title is still misleading in that an oil company executive is not expert in health issues in relation to oil extraction or at all.

Sprague presented ex-Chevron exec Ray Schmidt's see-hear-speak-no evil babble we've heard from him before, babble that oozes out of the holes of oil company execs from Chevron to BP to Matrix, and the warning words of local Dr. Bob Florin, who says we'll see increases in "respiratory diseases like asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis" and "lung cancer". Gee, we wonder who to believe, an oil company exec who has a history of misrepresenting the consequences of local oil exploitation and has no medical education, or a member of the medical profession who has seen the health consequences of exploitation of this very oil field?

After neglecting to present a medical opinion, only an oil industry exec's spin, Cook then misleads readers to believe renewed drilling is a fait accompli - "The main whether the city will properly utilize the new source of funding" - which is very far from the fact case. If 'Quaker Campus' has any integrity left at all, then Cook needs the boot. (If drilling is renewed, we suggest the City of Whittier put all the money from Matrix Oil in a fund to pay for all the lawsuits and claims that are going to result...)

Speaking of Lawsuits Against Matrix Oil et al...

Bonnie Delaney et al v Matrix Oil Corporation et al
Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. VC 046677

Bonnie Delaney was the wife of Herbert Delaney, Jr., who worked for Pool Well Services Co. that subcontracted work at Matrix Oil's Honolulu Terrace site at which an explosion and resulting fire occurred on May 19, 2005 - an explosion that killed Herbert Delaney and fire that severely burned two more Pool Well Services workers, and spewed carcinogens and other toxic materials into this and neighboring communities air. (See 'Oil Well Fire Continues to Burn', Whittier Daily News, May 20, 2005) The Delaneys had three children.

Matrix Oil, in the course of threatening Whittier Hills Oil Watch (WHOW) for the non-profit's release of information about the Delaney v Matrix suit settlement, falsely claimed that Herbert Delaney was a Matrix employee. The Superior Court decision, despite Matrix's (habitual) misrepresentations, was clearly based on the fact that Mr. Delaney's employer was Pool Well Services, not Matrix Oil, and that Pool Well Services was a subcontractor operating on site without adequate oversight by Matrix. Bonnie Delaney et al were awarded $3.075 mil.

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Here's what's developing regarding the proposed renewal of oil exploitation in Whittier:

The following groups are adamantly opposed to renewed oil exploitation in Whittier: Whittier Hills Oil Watch, The Sierra Club, Hills for Everyone, and Los Angeles County's Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority, among others. See 'L A County becomes latest party to criticize report on Whittier oil-drilling' by Mike Sprague ('Whittier Daily News', 1-17-11). The EIR (Environmental Impacts Report) deficiencies are explained in 'Oil-drilling report on effects on wildlife, vegetation needs more work, Habitat Authority says', again by Mike Sprague ('Whittier Daily News', 11-28-10).

Now, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann Jones is allowing a lawsuit to stop the City of Whittier and Matrix Oil from reopening the Whittier Hills oil field filed by Open Space Legal Fund to proceed - after efforts to stop the case from advancing failed - 'L A Superior Court to advance' by Mike Sprague ('Whittier Daily News', 1-31-11). None of these facts appears in Von-Paul Cook's oil exploitation propaganda piece published by 'Quaker Campus'. The proposed renewal of oil exploitation in the Whittier Hills is in fact and indeed very far from a fait accompli.

Whittier College students, who need to know the fact case to know how best to act in their own defense, how best act to protect their health, instead of being informed, are being inexcusably misled to be apathetic at the very moment when they need to act, by Cook and 'Quaker Campus'. Obviously, ASWC needs to take a long hard look at what students are and aren't getting from the student publication for which students are paying, and then make some positive and effective changes. The 'Quaker Campus' advisor needs to be booted and ASWC funds made contingent upon Quaker Campus serving student interests, which more and more at Whittier College are no longer the same as the objectives of this increasingly errant administration.

"Dan Duran, president of the anti-oil-drilling Whittier Hills Oil Watch..." said, "(Matrix) has a vast supply of money and is trying to buy as much influence as it can", and "It's a reality that Matrix has the deep pockets to spend as much as they need to spend to sway public opinion." - 'Matrix Oil launches massive public relations campaign' by Mike Sprague ('Whittier Daily News', 1-3-11). The only question of Von-Paul Cook is whether he's a mouthpiece for the Whittier College administration and Matrix Oil or a mouthpiece for the Whittier College administration and Matrix Oil?

Related issues are being raised so fast it's difficult to keep track of them. An example close to home for Whittier College students, faculty, and staff, is traffic proposed for Penn Street. As students should be aware, Penn Street residents are already fed up with the increased traffic and parking problems and student misbehaviors affecting their neighborhood exacerbated by construction on campus this academic year, which construction should have taken place during summer months. Penn Street residents already have to cope with normal school traffic in addition to Penn Park traffic and parking pressures, and the usual 118 trash truck trips per day (and City of Whittier landfill traffic on Penn Street has been as high as 259 trips per day these days due to construction projects, not the least of them on the Whittier College campus). Now, Matrix Oil wants to use Penn Street, too.

According to Mike Sprague's 'Penn Street residents oppose plan to have oil-drilling traffic use their road' ('Whittier Daily News', 12-4-10):

""It's reckless for them to consider Penn Street as a road for the oil tankers to come in and out on a daily basis," said (resident) Yvette Martinez.

"It's not the place to be sending that sort of dangerous combustible material running through our neighborhood," Martinez said. "We have children, families and college students."

In addition to the traffic pollution and explosive accident issues, hidden costs will eventually reveal themselves...

"...flacks routinely make extravagant promises about bringing jobs and income... ...those jobs and royalties don't come...

"In a devastating admission, the industry now acknowledges that it absolutely cannot afford to pay localities the costs of roads damaged from the thousands of truck trips per wellhead, leaving those ruinous costs to local taxpayers...

"...local communities are finding the costs of...drilling to be ruinous contaminated well water, poisoned air, nuisance noise and dust, diminished properties and collapsing quality of life are...the predictable collateral damage..." - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (excerpts from his excellent N Y Times piece on carbon exploitation in the United States)

Fracking used in oil as well as in gas extraction

While Kennedy and others are focusing on fracking and gas extraction, it's important to know that fracking is also used in oil extraction. Fracking has been employed at the Inglewood oil field only several miles from Whittier and all over California for years, as well as being part of plans to extract gas from California's Sierra Nevada shale deposits.

And if there aren't concerns about fracking pollution liability, then why does the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 contain a virtual confession of that concern in the form of exemptions from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act?

It's a pity that narcissistic Whittier College students aren't as concerned about their Whittier neighbors as these neighbors are concerned about students. Certainly these neighbors have shown patience toward students during the College's badly scheduled major construction work that, sadly, is largely undeserved. Whittier College students working together with Whittier neighbors to protect the local environment and all residents' health from renewed oil exploitation pollution would go a long way toward some redemption in this respect.

And Whittier College touts its Green consciousness, and at least as of this writing still has a law school, so for this school to be missing in action is to suggest the Whittier Old Guard expect just that. Whittier College will be degraded by oil exploitation adjacent to campus, period. Whittier Law School should have filed an amicus curiae brief, should have made itself a friend of the court, in support of the Open Space Legal Fund challenge to the City of Whittier and Matrix Oil now being heard in the Superior Court. Whittier College is not acting in loco parentis in this regard; indeed, this school is negligent at best, and acting against students' best interest at worst, but we're seeing the worst from this administration and these trustees more and more as time goes on.

Mike Sprague's article continued, "Valerie Shatyuski called the issue one of "environmental justice," saying city officials should be ashamed of themselves.

""There are roughly 500 people living on Penn Street between Painter and the entrance to the landfill," Shatyuski said. "This area has the lowest income of all the alternatives considered."

"Maurice Salcedo, speaking for residents of streets like Canyon Crest Road, who use Penn Street, says that "With the construction already happening at Whittier College and garbage trucks, we already have limited access to Penn Street. It would be a lot worse.""

Whittier College students - and faculty and staff - should make themselves an important part of the campaign to stop the renewal of oil exploitation in the Whittier Hills, now, no matter what this College's administration and trustees, and lickspittle sellouts like Von-Paul Cook and so 'Quaker Campus', say or do - because the health of everyone and every living thing in the area will suffer if the City of Whittier and Whittier College Old Guard and their partners in crime like Matrix Oil are allowed to profit from the oil remaining under the Whittier Hills at our expense. Whittier oil money helped Dick Nixon disgrace himself, Whittier, and Whittier College, and that money hasn't gotten any cleaner. We don't need anymore Dirty Tricks or dirty air. Matrix Oil: Get out of Whittier! And hopefully your running dogs will follow you...

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