It’s a move that’s being praised by the likes of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Tuesday night, Arvin City Council passed much stricter regulations on any new oil and gas operations that come to the city from here on out. Many calling it, ‘a decision for the city’s next generations.’
“This is a historic day for the community of Arvin,” said Gustavo Aguirre, a long-time Arvin resident, Tuesday night after the vote passed in city council.
“We’re really happy and excited. Finally this community is on the map for a good reason,” echoed Juan Flores, a member with The Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment.
Calling it “common sense regulations,” the council voted 3-0 to update an ordinance that was last modified more than 60 years ago, in 1955.
“It was like the wild, wild west out here with an ordinance that was passed before the first moon landing,” Gurrola said, emphasizing the updates were long overdue. “I don’t want oil rigs in my backyard. I’m sure my constituents don’t want that for themselves,” he said.
The ordinance will do a number of things for the community. Namely, requiring new oil and gas sites to be located more than 300 feet from residences, schools, hospitals and parks.
“Four years ago this community was known because of an accident that pulled many families on Nelson Court out of their homes for nine months,” Flores explained Arvin’s notorious gas leak incident of 2014 that forced eight families from their homes.
Before the leak was discovered, families said they suffered from headaches, nausea, nose bleeds and light-headedness. And they were displaced for months.
“When I say that I want to fight for healthy air and clean air, it’s not some consultant that tells me that it’s good politics; it’s a lived experience,” said Mayor Gurrola, who grew up in Arvin.
Tracy Leach with Kern Citizens for Energy was among a small handful at the council meeting in opposition of more regulation. “Rather than working to ban an industry that provides jobs here in Kern County,” Leach said, “We urge you to get educated about oil and gas production.”
But the mayor emphasizes, this is not a ban, it’s just making the people in his community feel prioritized and safe.
The ordinance takes effect within 30 to 60 days. Once that happens, any new oil and gas operation has to abide by the new rules. However, these regulations will not apply to any of the current oil wells in the city of Arvin – unless they plan to move or expand their operation.