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Settlement Agreement Signed and Filed Baldwin Hills Environmental Quality and Justice for All!

Parties have signed and filed an agreement settling legal challenges to the environmental impact report and oil field zoning regulations or community standards district (“CSD”) and strengthening health and safety protections for residents of and visitors to the Baldwin Hills area of south Los Angeles who are currently affected by drilling operations by the Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP). The settlement resolves four lawsuits filed in November 2008 by Community Health Councils, Inc. (CHC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the City of Culver City, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, and the Citizen’s Coalition for a Safe Community.The petitioners in the lawsuits claimed that the County violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to conduct an adequate environmental impact report (EIR) before adopting the Baldwin Hills CSD, which was intended to regulate 1,100 acres of oil drilling and production activities in Baldwin Hills adjoining park lands.“The settlement provides additional protections for people, parks and the environment in the Baldwin Hills, in one of the most diverse areas of Los Angeles and the historic heart of African-American L.A.,” said Robert García, president and counsel of The City Project, which represents Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles. “The agreement recognizes that equal justice and environmental laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, and California’s Government Code section 11135, create more just, democratic and livable communities for all. This settlement is a best practice example for environmental justice and quality everywhere.”Key elements of the settlement include

  • Reduced drilling of new wells
  • Increased air quality monitoring
  • More stringent noise limits
  • Mandatory, recurring health and environmental justice assessments, as discussed below.

Settlement Agreement.  Click here to download the Baldwin Hills Settlement Agreement dated July 15, 2011.

Summary of Agreement.  Click here to download the Baldwin Hills Settlement Chart that explains the additional health and environmental safeguards achieved through the settlement. The settlement’s provisions, when added to existing safeguards in the 2008 Community Standards District, provide residents with significantly greater protections from the effects of oil drilling than existed previously.

Health Assessment and Environmental Justice. Paragraph 5 of the settlement agreement provides for the Health Assessment and Environmental Justice Study:

The County shall complete a Community Health Assessmentof the communities surrounding the Oil Field which shall include an Environmental Justice component by June 2012and ensure additional assessments are completed every five to seven years throughout the life of the CSD. In future CommunityHealth Assessments, the County Department of Public Health (“Public Health”) shallreview other agencies’ reports regardingair quality, water quality and seismic data, where feasible,in itsassessment. Public Health will analyze the informationbysocio-economic and demographic data to accommodate and reflect an Environmental Justice component. The Community Health Assessment shall include, but not be limited to, an analysis of cancer rates, mortality rates, birth outcomes and a survey of other pertinent health indicators.  The County will consult with the CAP and the Health Working Group regarding the Community Health Assessment and consider reasonable comments by the CAP and the Health Working Group.  Public Health will comply with all applicable state and federal requirements including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and corresponding regulations, and California Government Code Section 11135 and corresponding regulations.

Equal Justice Protections.  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and corresponding regulations, and California Government Code Section 11135 and corresponding regulations, guarantee equal access to public resources, and prohibit intentional discrimination, as well unjustified discriminatory impacts, on the basis of race, color or national origin by recipients of federal funds including the County.  The County, including the Health Department and the Regional Planning Department, has previously signed the attached highlighted agreements to comply with equal justice laws and principles, including Title VI and its regulations, as a condition of receiving federal funds.

Policy Report.  The Policy Report Keep the Baldwin Hills Clean and Green for Generations to Come by Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles and The City Project analyzes the struggle by the community to protect people, parks and the environment for over ten years.

Petitioners’ Briefs.  The briefs filed by petitioners analyze the environmental impact report under environmental and civil rights laws and principles.  Petitioners’ Opening Brief is available here and Petitioners’ Reply Brief is available here.

Media Release.  See the July 6, 2011, media release here.

Joint Statement. The parties to the settlement have agreed to the following statement:

“The parties have negotiated in good faith a settlement containing important improvements to the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (‘CSD’) that could not have been compelled by a court order resulting from the current litigation challenging the County’s Environmental Impact Report and the CSD.

“The terms of the settlement adequately augment the protections contained in the CSD and, when combined with the existing provisions of the CSD, provide a satisfactory framework for safeguarding community health, safety and security.

“The settlement expedites the resolution of significant community concerns and allows the focus of this process to shift to constructive dialogue, implementation, monitoring and establishment of a more effective working relationship between the parties.”

Visit the Greater Baldwin Hills Alliance to learn more about protecting the people, park and environment in the Baldwin Hills.