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Backers of new tax on oil production will hold public forum in Baldwin Hills

August 19, 2010 | 12:07 pm

Supporters of a new tax on oil production in California will hold a forum Thursday evening in Baldwin Hills to promote the potential benefits of such legislation.

The state faces a $19-billion budget deficit, and several programs that provide healthcare and education benefits are threatened with cuts. Democrats in the California Assembly have proposed an oil extraction tax to raise about $1.2 billion a year.

But Republican lawmakers remain adamantly opposed to new taxes this year.

Of the nation’s 22 oil-producing states, California is the only one that does not charge companies for pumping crude out of the ground.

The money raised from such a so-called oil severance tax could go toward safeguarding public services and the environment, according to local health, education and environment advocates who are organizing Thursday’s meeting.

One program that could benefit is CalWORKs, an initiative that “provides temporary financial assistance and employment-focused services to families with minor children who have income and property below state maximum limits for their family size,” according to details published about the program.

“We are looking at opportunities to gain resources, and asking oil companies to pay their fair share seems appropriate,” said Gwendolyn Flynn, community health and education policy director for Community Health Councils, a nonprofit group.

“We have to make Big Oil accountable,” added Irma Munoz, president and CEO of Mujeres de la Tierra, a local environmental group.

Munoz said that the four top oil producers in California made more than $45 billion in profits last year.

For the past several years, area residents have been fighting drilling in the Baldwin Hills region of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field, owned by Plains Exploration & Production Company. The oil field has more than 400 active producing wells, and nine new wells were scheduled to be opened between mid-June and mid-September, according to organizers of Thursday’s meeting.

Community members will be provided information and given the opportunity to ask questions, Flynn said. Organizers also hope to dispel what they call a “myth” that imposing an oil severance tax would end up costing consumers more at the pump.

The forum is scheduled for 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 5150 West Goldleaf Circle in Los Angeles.

-- Ann M. Simmons

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