3/15/2010--LOS ANGELES (AP) — This sprawling metropolis is built atop one of the richest oil basins in the world. Wells dot the city landscape, some hidden behind hollow building facades much like a Hollywood movie set, or, in the case of Beverly Hills High School, encased in a tower painted with flowers.
For decades it had been assumed that one oil field, the historic Inglewood, just minutes from the downtown skyline, would eventually play out, that the nodding pumpjacks would give way to an elaborately planned, two square-mile park.
But in 2004 Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Co., which had acquired the drilling rights from Chevron, used new technology to discover that only 35 percent of the reserves had been pumped out and began to drill the first of what would eventually become 600 new wells over the next 20 years. This renewed push for oil was helped along by county and state regulators who determined that the additional
wells didn't require any environmental review.
One state engineer charged with granting new permits apparently saw himself as more of a cheerleader for Plains than an impartial regulator, according to e-mails acquired by the Associated Press and an investigation by the state auditor. Not only did he own stock in the company whose wells he was approving, he solicited donations from the oil companies he regulated for his wife's nonprofit.
"Just keep up the good work," state regulator Floyd Leeson wrote to a high-ranking Plains' official in March, 2005, "and I will TRY to keep (my boss) from hitting you guys with any more retarded fines … Remember, I'm on YOUR side … go PXP!"...
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