BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — California authorities are preparing to start cleanup on an oil spill that dumped nearly 800,000 gallons of oil and water on land about 35 miles west of Bakersfield.
Chevron spokesperson Veronica Flores-Paniagua says oil has been seeping from the ground since May, but it’s the first time the public is hearing about it.
Environmentalists released a statement on Friday blasting the oil industry for what they’re calling an environmental disaster.
Michelle Corson, Public Information Officer for the Kern County Department of Public Health says they are monitoring the situation, but the agency in charge is the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.
DOGGR officials say the spill is not near any waterway and has not significantly affected wildlife.
The spill is located in an area where Chevron uses high-pressure steam injection to pull heavy crude out of the ground.
On Friday evening, Chevron spokesperson Jonathan Harshman emailed 17 News’ Jim Scott saying the seep, which has been flowing off and on since May, has stopped and the fluids are contained.
Harshman said Chevron is working with regulatory agencies to determine the source of the seep.
Pumps are being deployed to remove the oil and produced wastewater.
Environmental groups say the spill is another sign of weakened regulations under an embattled California agency.
In a related development, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired the state’s top oil regulator amid allegations that several senior officials within the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources own stock in petroleum companies they regulate.
Newsom called it a clear conflict of interest.
The move also comes as environmental groups are reporting a spike in oil fracking permits.
California Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield released a statement in response to the governor’s action:
“Today, I am disturbed to hear that the governor has rushed to dismiss the chief of DOGGR without completing a full and fair investigation first. He is allowing trial lawyers and radical environmentalists to run roughshod over an industry that employs more than 300,000 people in this state and is integral to the Central Valley economy.Sen. Shannon Grove (R – Bakersfield)
This is a serious injustice and if it is indicative of how the governor chooses to work with the oil industry, the future of California’s economy is in a very dangerous position,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove.