At least 800 people attended the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting on oil Tuesday. There, many who work in the industry voiced concerns over new regulations imposed by governor Gavin Newsom, including a ban on new permits for steam-injected oil drilling, and a mandate that any new fracking projects must be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Those in the industry say the governor’s policies could hurt the roughly 23,500 people either directly employed or associated with Kern’s oil industry.
“Governor Newsom and elected officials in Sacramento need to understand that decisions they make have significant impact on the people and families in this community,” said Megan Silva of Berry Petroleum.
Trem smith, Berry Petroleum’s CEO and Chairman of the board, said the oil company’s value significantly dropped after the governor announced the regulations in November of 2019.
“In the 48 hours following the governor’s announcement, Berry lost 354 million in market value, or nearly 40 percent of our stock value,” Smith said. “The impact of this most recent effort by the governor, as well as his ongoing efforts to stifle the industry, will have a long-lasting negative impact on all of us, including Kern County.”
High-ranking officials with the Newsom administration, including Bakersfield-native Anthony Williams, said Kern’s economy must diversify.
“As we move towards a stronger future for Kern, that requires a more diverse economy for Kern County as well,” Williams, Newsom’s legislative secretary, said.
David Shabazian, director of the Deptartment of conservation, acknowledged diversifying the economy may take time.
“These changes will not happen overnight, but they will happen nonetheless.”
Uduak-Joe Ntuk, CALGEM supervisor, shared a similar sentiment.
“We are committed to applying a thoughtful, measured approach as we transition to a low-carbon economy that prioritizes leaving no one behind,” Ntuk said
Some of the attendees, including Ingrid Brostrom with the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, believe the oil industry must work with the governor.
“The oil and gas industry is a dying industry,” said Brostrom. “If Kern County isn’t proactive with planning now, with state investment on the table, there’s going to be a huge opportunity loss, and the Kern County oil and gas workers are going to be the hardest hit.”
Supervisors said they want to work with the Newsom administration, but acknowledged there are disagreements.
“If we do not effectively change the course we seem to be upon, I don’t think we have any choice but to take more measures. One of those is I will ask my board to declare Kern County an oil and gas sanctuary in the state of California,” said 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard.
2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner also addressed the Newsom administration.
“Why would this administration pursue policies that would destroy domestic production in California, only to send our jobs and our treasure to these countries with terrible human rights records, little to no environment controls?” Scrivner questioned. “Why would we not produce our oil here where we do it safely and responsibly? This is the hypocrisy of the governor’s attack on Kern County and I don’t think we’re willing to accept it,” he continued as the room was filled with applause.
The board concluded the meeting with the approval of two actions.
First, supervisors will work to send a delegation to Sacramento to meet with the governor on oil. Second, the county will hire a consultant to write up an economic impact report about how the governor’s regulations could impact Kern County.