Allenco Oil, which controlled a well site in South Los Angeles that sparked an uproar about residents’ nosebleeds and headaches, faces felony proceedings for reportedly flouting a state directive and refusing to abandon wells properly.
The “charges show that we won’t allow Allenco to continue allegedly defying the law and disregarding its neighbors when it comes to environmental safety and health protections,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in an announcement Tuesday. “This is a matter of environmental justice.”
The misdemeanor charges filed this week also target Allenco Chief Executive Clifford E. Peter Allen and company Vice President Timothy Parker. An Allenco representative reached Tuesday declined to comment.
Earlier this year, California regulators ordered Allenco to plug wells and decommission the drill site, which would permanently close the inactive facility. State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk, formerly L.A.’s petroleum administrator, said the company had failed to fix leaking wells and effectively “deserted” the site.
The criminal lawsuit against Allenco and its members explicitly references their supposed non-compliance with a state order released last year ordering the company to prepare and carry out “well killing” in order to fix leakage from failing wells. Allenco challenged the decision, but Feuer said it was eventually upheld, and “to date, Allenco has not complied.”
Ntuk said that “the facility continues to be a potential risk to public health, safety, and the environment.”
The oil firm and its executives are still suspected of violating a local code allowing either reactivation or abandonment of inactive fields, refusing to take such measures for 21 fields.
Allenco faces nearly two dozen separate felony charges total for reportedly breaking federal and local rules. The City Attorney’s Office reported that if the executives are guilty, the crimes will be punished by years in prison.
Allenco had decided to halt activities at the facility almost seven years before, after federal and state hearings had already began and hazardous emissions sickened an environmental team that was visiting the property.
Feuer subsequently appealed and won a judicial order enforcing additional conditions should Allenco decide to reopen operations. Parker informed state regulators in February that Allenco was liquidating and expected to sell its portion of the South Los Angeles property, arguing that the state had made reopening it too complicated.
“We have spent tremendous amounts of capital trying to be compliant and prove that we are good stewards of compliance!” Parker wrote.
Parker also said Allenco was engaging in negotiations with the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which controls the land, and a prospective developer to “remove us from having any further business responsibilities at this site.”
Nonetheless, the Archdiocese said Tuesday that Allenco was already in charge of the property to maintain the plant secure until it is decommissioned, and while potential applications are being explored, ” there are no immediate plans to transfer the site.”
Local groups have been calling for a complete closure of the Allenco facility, claiming that petroleum plants could not be run near residences and schools in the area of University Park near USC.
Booth L.A. The alliance, which supports fracking in the area, has proposed an end to exploration in a 2,500-foot range between homes and classrooms.
Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, executive director of Esperanza Community Housing, called the charges “a welcome and long overdue victory,” lamenting that even though the facility became closed, tenants had started to experience leakages.
Nalleli Cobo, who suffered from nosebleeds as a kid living at the location of Allenco, said she was thankful to the city manager for “making sure people are held accountable for not doing the right thing.”
“As a person that has gone through this, knowing that we still have to fight for the basic right to breathe clean air is really upsetting,” said Cobo, 19, an environmental activist with Stand L.A.