At tonight’s (January 16) meeting, the Long Beach City Council is slated to vote on the Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation & Restoration Project, which concerns the use of land parcels located near 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway.
The proposal includes removing oil operations on city property and land owned by Synergy Oil & Gas, and consolidating them onto two smaller sites: land owned by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority (LCWA) and a parcel currently used as a pumpkin patch. This would reduce the overall land used for oil production from 187 acres to 10, according to John McKeown, the CEO and owner of Synergy Oil & Gas. McKeown is also the founder of Beach Oil Mineral Partners (BOMP), a group of private investors providing funds for the project.
John McKeown is the CEO of Synergy Oil & Gas. At tonight’s meeting (January 16), the city council plans to cast a vote on a proposal to remove oil operations from land owned by Synergy and restore the wetlands occupying the area. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Anne Artley)
In turn, the proposal calls for the restoration of the wetlands occupying the current Synergy Oil and city parcels. LCWA, a government entity created in 2006 to maintain and protect the Los Cerritos Wetlands, would oversee this process. After restoration, the area would be opened for public access with a visitor’s center, bike lanes and a hiking trail.
McKeown noted that Synergy would install updated equipment at the new site, resulting in more efficient production despite the site’s smaller size. He said the current equipment is from the 1950s, 1960s and even the 1920s, when oil was discovered on the land.
“The concept is to get the oil wells out of the wetlands,” McKeown said. “A lot of the equipment out there right now is in really close proximity to the wetlands. If there was a spill or a leak, they’re right there.”
McKeown added that the new equipment would also be safer, decreasing the chance of an incident. With more efficient operations, the city revenue from oil production would increase dramatically, from approximately $50,000 annually up to $4,000,000, according to BOMP estimates.
Proposed changes to the pumpkin patch site include the drilling of up to 50 new oil wells, the construction of a new sign marking the entrance to Long Beach from Seal Beach, and a bike fix-it station along Pacific Coast Highway. The LCWA site would host up to 70 new wells.
A map of the proposed Los Cerritos Wetlands Oil Consolidation & Restoration Project, which concerns the use of land parcels located near 2nd Street and Pacific Coast Highway.
If the council approves the proposal, it will go on to the California Coastal Commission for a final vote in the spring. McKeown said he approached the commission six years ago with the plan and has incorporated its input. If he receives the building permits, Synergy will immediately cut production by 75% to reduce environmental impacts.
The Synergy CEO outlined a plan to phase out 50% of all oil operations over the next 20 years, with the goal of complete removal in 40 years. “If a well doesn’t produce a barrel of oil every day for 18 months, we’ll pull it,” he said.
McKeown described the project as a community collaboration that incorporated feedback from various groups, such as the El Dorado Audubon Society, which requested the installation of a certain type of lighting to accommodate nesting birds. He also said the proposal gained the endorsement of the Belmont Shore Business Association and the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. The groups Citizens About Responsible Planning and Protect the Long Beach/Los Cerritos Wetlands oppose the project due to inadequate public outreach and environmental review.