The city of Hermosa (‘beautiful’ in Spanish) Beach, California is in an 11‐year‐old legal battle over a proposal for a massive oil‐drilling and production operation next to local residences, parks and businesses. The city has now requested that the California State Supreme Court review a recent California Court of Appeal decision in the ongoing litigation. The Court of Appeal ruled in the city’s favor by finding the Hermosa Beach City Council had the “discretionary power” to deny an oil drilling permit, if it found the oil‐drilling operation proposed by Macpherson Oil Company would endanger the health and safety of the community.

Macpherson Oil Company wants to drill up to 30 oil wells and place permanent tanks and production facilities on 1.3 acres of land at the corner of 6th Street and Valley Drive, next to the city’s popular greenbelt, a half block from South Park, a block from residences and about a half mile from the beach, pier and downtown.

Macpherson’s slant‐drilling operations are designed to tap into offshore oil reserves. Oil and gas operations on and near the ocean are considered so risky that no offshore oil projects – including the type of slant‐drilling Macpherson Oil Company proposed – have been constructed in state waters since 1969. That was the year an offshore oil well blowout covered 35 miles of beaches with an oily goo that killed more than 10,000 sea birds and countless numbers of fish on the Santa Barbara Coast.

In 1998, an independent analysis found the massive oil‐drilling operation would pose the following risks:

  • 1 in 3,000 risk of a fatality
  • 1 in 700 risk of one or more serious injuries to the public
  • 4% likelihood of an offsite flash fire with potential for human casualties
  • Risk of 31 leaks, 2 major releases and 1 rupture over the 35‐year life of the project

What do you suppose the risk of leaks or major releases would be for an even larger offshore drilling project?