KERN COUNTY, Calif. — Oil and gas remain an important topic in Kern county and come Thursday, county officials are expected to discuss revisions to a zoning ordinance focused on oil and gas local permitting.
This is an ordinance that's years in the making and its faced challenges along the way. The initial review was approved by the board of supervisors back in 2015, but last year after a court ruling it was challenged, so now the county's planning commission is revisiting this topic once more.
"It took years of environmental review, a multitude of public hearings. It's being once again challenged by inside oil activists. In another attempt to shut down Kern County's oil production."
On Thursday at 7 p.m., officials are expected to reconsider the implementation of a land-use approval process for oil and gas exploration, extraction operations, and production activities. Rachel Glauser with the Kern Citizens for Energy Coalition says if the ordinance is denied, she believes it would be devastating for the county.
"There are 40,000 jobs that are derived from Kern County's oil and gas industry, and the many other local benefits that come from this industry. Millions of dollars from businesses that go to roads and public safety that would all be in jeopardy."
However, advocates against the proposed ordinance say they are concerned with environmental impacts of the air, water, and noise concerns that may follow if the ordinance is approved.
"Unless we start looking at the public health implications then what is the point? Who is benefiting from this? It isn't the people who live less than 1,500 feet away from oil and gas. It's, not the people who are being constantly bombarded."
The Mayor of Delano, Bryan Osorio agrees. He's worried those in low-income areas in his city will negatively be impacted.
"Emissions from oil and gas infrastructure affect those living closest to them, and these emissions include fine particulate matter which pose a significant health risk to those living near there."
This is why Osorio says he will continue to speak out.
"And we have to also center in the voices of marginalized communities about how we will deal with the long-term consequences to our health."
On the other side, Glauser says it’s important to follow environmental standards while keeping energy production strong not only in Kern but the state.
"It's very important we have in place this gold standard of environmental protection in place so that our local industry can obtain the permits that it needs. Californians still use a ton of energy, and if we're going to use it, we want it to be made here in California by Californians."
Due to the pandemic, the planning commission meeting will not be held in-person, but through their live digital broadcast. If you would like to have your voice heard in the meeting, you can call (661) 862-5011 by Wednesday night, or email firstname.lastname@example.org