Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills: Greenscam by Norma Zager

From Amazon.com: “This timely exposé reveals Erin Brockovich’s role in inciting public fear regarding the oil well at Beverly Hills High School. The author describes how Brockovich’s methods to link the oil well with cancer occurrences in former students were suspect and questions the veracity of Brockovich’s claims, using interviews with subject experts and studies done by the Air Quality Management District and others to disprove them. Focusing upon the Beverly Hills case, the author positions Brockovich as the poster child for what she terms “green porn,” sexy Madison Avenue slant thats misleads citizens, distorts scientific information, and neither informs nor educates the public.”

A review: This book is a quick read. Zager takes you through each step in this high stakes game of chess between two formidable opponents like Erin Brockovich vs. the City of Beverly Hills. With children’s lives and family fears as the pawn. Brockovich cleverly uses the media and unsubstantiated science to exploit fear and panic into a community for what seemed to be a sure fire sequel to her namesake movie starring Julia Roberts. In stark contrast, you have a City Government and a tenacious citizenry hell bent on finding the truth. Norma Zager flushes out the fiction from the fact and exposes the movie deals, tabloid newscasters creating sweeps week sensationalism and the dollar signs being flirted to solicit plaintiffs. She is equally hard on a City Government who decades earlier signed a long term contract allowing for an oil well to be built on school property. Zager pulls no punches until she exposes the truth.

Another review: An oil well was located on the playing field of Beverly Hills High School, installed long before the high school was built. People could smell the emissions from the well all the time (although it was determined by air quality technicians that it was safe to breathe). When legal assistant/environmental crusader Brockovich determined that a “more than average” number of BHHS alumni were dying of cancer, she commissioned an air quality test which ultimately resulted in a law suit against the oil companies, the City of Beverly Hills, and its school district. It also resulted in a movie with lots of cash flowing to Brockovich and her team.

Ms. Zager was working for the “Beverly Hills Courier” at the time and she began her own investigation. Zager came to believe Brockovich was misdirecting worried families and the media with her unfounded allegations. Brockovich refused to answer questions like “Who did the air sampling and could we have a copy of the results?”. Zager’s book presents the results of her investigation with a journalistic (just the facts, ma’am) eye, including many interviews with all the parties involved on both sides of the issue.

Luke: There was much hysteria on Pico Blvd by members of the big shuls because of an oil rig on Pico and Doheny Blvd.

Norma Zager was on Dennis Prager’s radio show today.

Norma: “Parents were terrified. You struggled to afford to live in Beverly Hills to give your kids a good education and now someone is telling you that you are killing your children.”

“There are certain types of emissions that they can link to oil wells, such as benzine, that lead to higher rates of cancer but how much has to be released before they become harmful to a person’s health? You’re talking about an oil rig 165 feet up in the air? By the time these emissions fall to the ground, they’ve dissipated quite a bit so they’re intensity is not as harmful as someone breathing closing to it.”

There were many years of legal posturing until a settlement was rich.

Erin Brockovich and her trial lawyers had to pay the city of Beverly Hills almost $500,000 because they lost in summary judgment. The oil companies settled, paying out tens of millions of dollars. At the end of the day, it’s beneficial to sue because you will get money.

The Jewish Journal published Jan. 13, 2000:

A battle against an oil company ignited by a handful of Jewish mothers and grandmothers has grown into community-wide demand for more accountability and honesty from both Breitburn Energy, and city and state monitoring agencies.
Breitburn remains confounded by the demonstrations and petitions against its application to expand and modernize a drill site at the corner of Pico and Doheny, in the middle of the heavily Orthodox Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Neighbors for a Safe Environment (NASE) is calling Breitburn to task over its proposal to increase production from 1,200 to 3,000 barrels of oil a day by moving from a schedule of 10 business days a month to 24 hours a day, year-round to perform the vital workover operations that keep the wells pumping. Breitburn has included in the expansion proposal plans to replace a diesel workover rig with an electric one; to build a 175-foot tower (about 18 stories) to enclose that derrick; to erect other structures to enclose most operations; and to raise the perimeter wall extending on Pico from Doheny to Cardiff from 12 ft to 25 ft. All these measures are meant to mitigate the noise and pollution emanating from the site.

I cover real estate, refinance and mortgages at the following blog:

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About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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