Regulators accused of lax oversight at LA oilfield

LOS ANGELES (AP) - This sprawling Los Angeles metropolis is
built atop one of the richest oil basins in the world. For decades
it's been assumed that one oil field, the historic Inglewood
minutes from the downtown skyline, would eventually play out.
But in 2004, Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Co.
used new technology to discover that only 35 percent of the
reserves had been pumped out. So it began to drill the first of
what would eventually become 600 new wells over the next 20 years
on the land with drilling rights it had acquired from Chevron,
This renewed push for oil was helped along by California county
and state regulators who determined that the additional wells
didn't require any environmental review.
One state engineer charged with granting new permits apparently
saw himself as more of a cheerleader for Plains than an impartial
regulator. E-mails obtained by The Associated Press and a state
audit show that he owned stock in the company whose wells he was
approving and solicited donations from the oil companies he
regulated for his wife's nonprofit.


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