Mineral Extraction Information

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Mineral Extraction Project Information

A big part of Whittier’s early growth and prosperity was as a result of oil production within the Whittier Hills. Much of the Los Angeles basin has seen similar oil production activity during the last century as well. Starting in the early 1900s over 500 oil wells were developed in the Whittier Hills. The majority of these wells were established in what was commonly known as the Whittier Main Field. The Whittier Main Field was in production for nearly 100 years however, this largely stopped due to reductions in the price of oil during the 1990s.

At the time that oil production was stopping the City was also under pressure as oil companies were looking to develop their land for hillside housing. In response, the City Council seized the opportunity to preserve the hills from development growth pressures and in the mid-1990s the City purchased the majority of the former oil fields from Chevron and Unocal with Measure A Park Bond funds in order to preserve this land as open space and wildlife habitat. This land is now managed for the City by the Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority (Habitat Authority), a joint powers agency with members including the City of Whittier, County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sanitation District and Hacienda Heights Improvement Association.

At the time most oil production stopped, oil was selling at approximately $12 per barrel. In 2008 the Whittier City Council began investigating the potential for leasing the rights to the oil as crude oil prices had risen to approximately $100 per barrel. Subterranean mapping of the hills showed that there were still significant untapped oil reserves in the Whittier Main Field.  

The City entered into a lease agreement with Matrix Oil Company in 2008 as part of a bid process. In response to their selection, Matrix filed a request for a conditional use permit to allow for oil production. An environmental impact report was prepared to assess the potential impact of the project and numerous hearings were held before the City’s Planning Commission and City Council. The City Council ultimately certified the Final Environmental Impact Report and approved the Conditional Use Permit on November 28, 2011. Site grading and construction of the test well site commenced but was halted upon the filing of litigation. Several of the groups that opposed the project and entered into litigation against the project subsequently settled with the City and Matrix, including the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) and the Open Space Legal Defense Fund.

FAQs

  • Why did the City consider pursuing this oil project?
  • Wouldn’t this project remove much of the site from recreational use available to the public?
  • What adverse impacts would the project have on the environment?
  • What measures were required by the project to benefit the Whittier Hills habitat?
  • Won’t this oil project allow the dangerous practice of fracking?
  • How is the oil project proposed to be developed and operated?
  • How can Whittier residents be assured the Whittier hills won’t have oil wells dotting the hills one day in the future?
  • Won’t the oil project change the visual appearance of the hills with oil pumps dotting the hills?
  • What did the Court of Appeal decide regarding the litigation on this project?
  • When will this project commence construction?
More FAQs

The City has processed an Environmental Impact Report, in conjunction with the amended conditional use permit application.

To find out more about the Mineral Extraction Project in the Whittier Hills, please click on the following documents.

January 31, 2013 Approval of Test Site Vegetation Clearance

The City has authorized Matrix Oil to proceed with the clearing of site vegetation along access roads and the 1.99 – acre test drill site on January 30, 2013. This approval was granted upon Matrix complying with the 79 requirements laid out as part of the City’s approval of the project’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This approval authorizes Matrix to only remove vegetation – it does not permit site grading nor drilling activity at this point. Further, all clearance work is being monitored by biologists retained on behalf of the City to assure compliance with EIR mitigation measures. It is anticipated that clearance work will be completed within a week.

  • View the City's letter approving the site clearing and the list of the requirements laid out as part of the project's CUP and EIR.

Agenda Reports and Documents

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