Gov. Newsom signs water bill, visits site of Chevron oil seepage in Kern County

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KERN COUNTY, Calif. (KGET) — Governor Gavin Newsom visited the Central Valley Wednesday where he signed a clean drinking water bill and surveyed the site of an oil spill in McKittrick.

Newsom visited the Chevron seepage site, oil field and met with Chevron employees. He said he is cautiously optimistic about the cleanup process.

Since May 10, five different seepage events have taken place there amounting to a large pool of liquid consisting of a third oil and two-thirds water.

“There is deep desire to get this thing fixed,” Newsom said. “It’s the most significant seepage we’ve seen in quite some time.”

The seepage, according to the governor, is contained. He added the seepage did not lead to significant threats for wildlife or water Californians drink.

Newsom acknowledged the nearby communities that rely on oil for everyday life, including the economy. But Newsom said he is cautiously looking ahead to a future where oil may be a thing of the past.

“Is this our future or our past?” Newsom asked. “I think a lot of folks feel there is a decline here. … The world’s changing, the cost of alternative energy is getting lower and lower, and that’s the conversation I want to have in this state.”

The governor also signed new water legislation into law earlier in the morning. In Sanger, alongside activist Dolores Huerta, Newsom signed SB 200 into law.

The law allocates up to $130 million per year for statewide projects the governor says will lead to clean drinking water.

Meanwhile, the governor said the Chevron seepage originated from an oil well that was no longer in use. The exact cause of the seepage remains under investigation.

There is no timetable for when all the oil will be cleaned up.

Following the governor’s visit, local legislators issued statements.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy released the following statement on Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 200:

Clean and available water should not be a partisan issue, and is something I support especially throughout our Central Valley communities. That is why I have pushed for a vote on legislation I introduced earlier this year that would provide grants for small or rural communities when wells run dry and to reduce nitrate levels in drinking water. I appreciate the Governor’s visit to the Central Valley highlighting the importance of strengthening our water infrastructure.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) – Bakersfield

State Senator Shannon Grove released the following statement on the signing of SB 200:

My Senate Republican colleagues and I support providing clean drinking water for our hardworking families without raising taxes. The State’s inability to provide clean drinking water to some of California’s most rural and disadvantaged communities is a moral failure.

Having clean drinking water is a necessity, and Senate Republicans worked to help these disadvantaged families without raising taxes or creating a fee. With a $22 billion budget surplus in this state, there was no need to raise taxes on Californians.

State Sen. Shannon Grove (R)

State Senator Melissa Hurtado released the following statement on the signing of SB 200:

Today’s signing of SB 200, marks a significant milestone for California. Growing up in the City of Sanger, I, along with my family and friends, encountered firsthand the challenges of limited availability to clean and affordable drinking water. Unfortunately, nearly one million-plus people continue to share that experience including our most vulnerable rural communities throughout the Southern Central Valley.

As a result, local community leaders have dedicated years before us to empowering voices in the Central Valley to advocate for sound policies that directly uplift regions in poverty. I applaud the Governor’s actions to protect the public health of our most underserved regions which demonstrates his ongoing effort to lead not only our state but the nation in addressing our most basic human rights. As we move forward, I look forward to continue working and encouraging California’s leadership to keep in mind our most underrepresented communities throughout California.”

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D)

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