KERN COUNTY, Calif. — As California Governor Gavin Newsom continues cracking down on the state's oil industry, local officials say that a move away from oil may carry some unintended consequences.
If Kern's oil industry took a hit, so would it's economy. And that would manifest itself in many ways, one of which being property taxes. Kern collects property taxes based on the value of oil and gas reserves within county lines. So if the value of everything collected is gone, that could mean trouble.
"Property tax is the primary funding source for the fire department, any changes in the evaluation of lands, especially our oil lands, will have a significant impact to that budget," said David Nelson, the President of the Kern County Firefighters Association, a union that represents the Kern County Fire Department.
And that's why local first responders are speaking out against recent steps by the state to move the state away from oil. Newsom in the last few months signed several bills and announced new bans in an effort to limit the industry. The actions coming amid reports saying that burning fossil fuels is the dominant source of emissions that cause climate change.
"It's really easy to, you know, make feel-good policies of eliminating oil but that's a direct effect on our economy and the lives and civility of this county," said Tim Caughron, the President of the Kern Law Enforcement Association, a union that represents the Kern County Sheriff's Department.
When the price of oil dropped considerably in 2014, the county was forced to take measures to save money, including decreasing funding to all public safety services.
"Now we're talking about eliminating that industry altogether, that's going to completely decimate this community, and wipe out public safety services for our residents," Caughron said.
Governor Newsom addressed the county's concerns during a visit in December, saying that he is working with local leaders to address some of the deeper impacts of his anti-oil stance.
"When, as a democrat, we proudly promote our low carbon green growth goals, when we take about decarbonizing our economy, that transition impacts Kern County disproportionately," Newsom said.
The unions have created a website where the public can sign a petition and voice their concerns. The petition will be sent to legislators in Sacramento.
"Letting the people have a voice is very important in this situation because it's not just your trade unions, it's not just your government officials, it's the entirety of the county that's going to be impacted by this," Nelson said.
Next week, Governor Newsom's administration will attend the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss how the state's restrictions impact us locally.