Kern County and the Oil Industry That Refuses to Die

By Community Alliance Staff

On Jan. 14, hundreds of oil workers and oil company owners packed the Kern County Administrative Center. They were invited by Kern County supervisors to attend a meeting in which state officials were present to explain new ideas that could affect the industry.

Lots of attendees carried picket signs in support of the oil industry and many more expressed sympathy for it. Others spoke in a patriotic tone associating the oil industry with the future of the country and complaining about the new rules affecting their jobs.  

What are those new rules that Governor Gavin Newsom apparently is trying to implement?

“There is no such new rules coming from Sacramento,” said Juan Flores, a community organizer at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) in Delano. “Governor Gavin Newsom talked about implementing a moratorium on fracking.”

Fracking is a controversial technique to obtain gas and oil underground. Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, is an oil and natural gas production technique that involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, plus chemicals and sand, underground at high pressure in order to create fractures in the underlying geology to allow natural gas or oil to escape.

Environmental activists and organizations say this technique is responsible for high levels of contamination because of the use of chemicals and accidents, and they associate fracking even with earthquakes.

“Last June, oil was discovered in our water,” said Flores. “The oil industry is also lying when they say Gov. Newsom wants to shut down oil extraction in Kern County.”

According to Flores, the Governor mentioned that this industry has been declining for the past two decades, leaving lots of workers without jobs and costing the county and state millions of dollars on lost taxes. So the Governor’s idea is to diversify the local economy to balance that decline.

The state government launched a $1.5 million study on “managed decline.”

This “managed decline” study, under the auspices of the University of California, will “evaluate pathways to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2045, manage the decline of in-state production as the state’s fossil fuel demand decreases, and assess potential impacts to disadvantaged and low-income communities and strategies to address those impacts.”

The oil industry will disappear in Kern County. Yes. But what Governor Newsom envisions is a greener California with a more diversified economy.

“If we don’t take advantage of Newsom’s idea, we’ll be left behind,” said Flores. “Kern County supervisors are afraid to lose their campaign donors.”

(Editor’s note: In the March edition of the Community Alliance, we will have a deeper analysis on this issue.)

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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