CSUB in line for $83 million for energy innovation center in governor’s proposed budget

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the size of the proposed innovation center. The square footage is actually 74,000 square feet. We apologize for the error.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his new proposed 2022-23 budget Monday morning, and it contains a nice plum for Bakersfield – a plum that could be worth a third of a billion dollars.

What’s the purpose of this seeming windfall? Addressing climate change and the vulnerable Kern County economy.

The Kern County oil industry has faced unprecedented challenges over the past two-plus years as Sacramento has worked toward ambitious climate change goals.

The number and severity of recently imposed restrictions on petroleum extraction by the state make it clear where this is all headed. That of course prompts the question  – where does that leave the Kern County economy, which relies so heavily on the oil industry? We got an important part of the answer Monday when Newsom – in revealing his proposed 2022-23 state budget –  announced his intention to give $83 million to CSU Bakersfield to research new directions in energy development as the state reduces its use of fossil fuels. 

“$537 million will be going to the CSU [system] with the support of the legislature,” Newsom said.  “[Of that] $304 million [is] ongoing, and then new dollars [would be coming] as part of the budget…. On- time money, including a Bakersfield innovation center. Bakersfield, in Kern County, [is] at the center of this transition to low carbon, green growth. (It’s a) remarkable CSU [campus]. …. $83 million investment there.”

CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny said the innovation center will help chart the energy future of the state – and the nation.

“We are here in the epicenter of energy for the state, for the nation,” she said. “This the right place for that work to happen. So what we’ve proposed was actually a building that will be at the center of research and development for energy innovation. I really do appreciate his trust in moving this forward. He has also given us money for additional faculty that will come to be part of this research center.”

Fourty-four new faculty, to be exact, taking up residency in the California Energy Research center – 74,000 square feet on three levels, with 17 laboratory spaces, including a fabrication lab.

No groundbreaking date has been set. The funding is not assured.

The governor said higher education will play a crucial part of the state’s plan to address climate change.

“We’re very mindful,” Newsom said, “that if we’re going to sprint in this transition we’ve got to support a thoughtful framework.”

The governor’s proposed budget would also add $250 million to help workers train for and find new jobs outside the oil extraction industries. Zelezny says she expects that several institutions of higher learning will participate in that aspect of the plan.

All together, that’s a third of a billion dollars that’s being directed toward helping Kern County move away from something that’s been part of its economy and its culture for more than 125 years.

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