Six months after mud and gas erupted from a long-abandoned oil well along Via Marina, many locals remain distrustful of state and local officials who took more than 10 days to notify Marina del Rey residents of the blowout. If anything, the level of animosity has intensified, judging by the dozens who attended last Sunday’s town hall discussion hosted by the environmental activist group Protect Playa Now at Chabad of Marina del Rey.

“I didn’t hear about [the Jan. 11 blowout] until Jan. 24,” said former state Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, who lives nearby. “What are the state and the county doing to protect us?”

The topic of conversation soon shifted, however, to Protect Playa Now’s goal of shutting down the underground natural gas storage field in Playa del Rey. Organizer Alexandra Nagy showed slides of past fossil fuel flare-ups at the wetlands-adjacent SoCal Gas facility and frequently mentioned the disastrous 2015 gas leak in Aliso Canyon. She said the Los Angeles City Council could revoke the Playa del Rey gas field’s conditional use permit or Gov. Gavin Newsom could issue an executive order to shut it down.

So far L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin is the only local lawmaker to publicly advocate for the Playa del Rey field’s closure. “This is a facility that doesn’t belong here anymore. This is a facility that is causing a risk to our community,” Bonin told the audience.

State Sen. Ben Allen (D- Santa Monica) has asked state oil and gas regulators to conduct a feasibility study into the pros and cons of closing the Playa del Rey storage site, a move SoCal Gas representatives warn could result in higher electricity prices. Questioned by an audience member whether Allen would ask Newsom to close the facility, Allen field deputy Olina Wibroe-Benson replied “we’re not there yet.”

— Gary Walker