Whittier and Conservation Agency Agree on Oil Drilling Project

The City of Whittier will give about $11 million a year in oil revenues to a conservation agency under an agreement aimed at settling litigation over development of a small parcel located within an area designated as a nature preserve.

The settlement, announced on August 15, must be approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, where its prospects are uncertain.

The deal was reached between city and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, a regional government entity that works to preserve open space and wildlife.

In 1994 Whittier purchased the 1,280-acre parcel as a nature preserve. It used $17 million of funds made availably Proposition A, a measure aimed at preserving open space in Los Angeles County.

In 2008, Whittier leased a seven-acre pad to Matrix Oil Co. of Santa Barbara, which plans to use slant drilling and hydraulic fracturing to recover an estimated 20 million barrels of oil. Whittier’s royalties are estimated at up to $100 million a year, or over $1,100 for each of the city’s 90,000 residents.

The Conservation Authority sued, arguing the lease violated the intent of Proposition A. The agreement is intended to settle that lawsuit. The authority plans to use the funds to acquire and preserve land in the area. The city will buy 17 acres to expand the nature preserve and replace the land leased to Matrix.

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