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Kern County Board of Supervisors approves oil ordinance after discussing impacts on county tax revenue and environmental issues

This could mean adding or losing money for schools
Oil Wells, Oil Pumps
Posted at 5:10 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 22:53:24-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 3/8 UPDATE 7:48 P.M. -- The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the oil ordinance that will add thousands of new oil wells to the county over the next two decades.

This comes after hundreds of people expressed their opinions of the ordinance during public comment.

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Hundreds of people sounded off at the Kern County Supervisors meeting on Monday regarding a project that could bring thousands of new oil wells to Kern County. What's at stake? Lots of money.

For some, this could mean adding or losing money for schools or services like the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

During a special county supervisors meeting Monday, discussing the impact on what bringing thousands of wells would mean to Kern County, County Assessor Jon Lifquist stated there will be a decline in tax revenue.

"We're looking at a $3 billion decline in oil and gas," said Kern County Assessor Jon Lifquist.

When 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez asked what that means to a voter or resident in Kern County, Lifquist responded: "Less revenue means less revenue to all county services - sheriff, DA, libraries."

Lifquiest did not give an exact estimate on how much could be cut from these services, and it's still not clear on how much the wells would generate in revenue.

Loreli Oviatt with the county's Planning and Natural Resources Department began the presentation by laying out the specifics, including how the county reduced the 2015 ordinance that would have allowed nearly 73,000 new wells through 2035.

According to Oviatt's report, the changes capped the number of new wells per year at 2,687 annually. Oviatt explained that this number of permits is only for a single calendar year, meaning if the number of permits does not reach 2,687 by the end of that year, the additional permits will not carry over into the next year.

Oviatt pointed out that the new ordinance has been downsized to just over 43,600 new wells during the stretch of time.

The supplemental Environmental Impact Report looked at five items, including impacts on water, particulate emissions, agricultural land, noise, and health impact.

During public comment, Keith Gardiner whose family owns and operates Pacific Ag Management and King and Gardiner Farms stated his family has a 120-year history in the county and asked the decision-makers in the county to get the environmental analysis right.

"I'm not against oil. I receive dividends from oil production on our property. Many of my best friends work locally in the oil industry. Personally, I am pro-business. I'm pro this county and I'm also pro-agriculture and I love farming."

Kern County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary C.Barlow said petroleum is a necessary resource and may have an impact on the school district's finances.

"The taxes that the petroleum industry pay helps fund school construction and daily operations that ensure students are prepared to become productive contributing citizens. In fact, almost 59% of local property taxes go to school districts."

Over 70 binders lined the tables in front of the supervisors with a 645-page staff report inside for review. And some big players in the oil industry who showed up for Monday's special meeting included Aera, Chevron, and Berry Petroleum.

The board of supervisors is expected to vote on the project once all public comment has been completed.