California’s Kern County Approves Plan to Expand State’s Oil Wells 40%

Oil and Gas Kern County (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Officials in Kern County, California, the prime oil-producing region in the Golden State, approved a plan this week to expand the number of oil and gas wells in the county dramatically, over the objections of environmentalists.

Kern County is the third-largest oil-producing county in the United States, and produces roughly three-fourths of the state’s oil and gas. Local leaders also tout the county as a new hub of renewable energy, including wind and solar energy.

As the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, the county’s new plan was approved unanimously by the county supervisors:

As expected, a Central Valley county approved a plan Monday to fast-track drilling of thousands of new oil and gas wells over the next 15 years, over the objections of environmental groups and people who live near oil fields.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a revised ordinance supported by the influential petroleum industry that creates a blanket environmental impact report to approve as many as 2,700 new wells a year.

Petroleum producers, oil company workers and industry and business groups spoke in favor of the measure, saying it would support high-paying jobs and produce oil under some of the most stringent environmental laws, instead of relying on dirtier imports.

Politico noted that Governor Gavin Newsom is unlikely to oppose the new wells, despite concerns from environmentalists and despite his own commitment to stringent climate change policies, because he faces a possible recall election:

Newsom is under similar pressure to take a stronger stance on proposals to ban fracking and impose drilling buffer zones. He called for a bill to prohibit the controversial extraction technique last fall when on stronger political footing, but in recent weeks he dodged questions about the measure — possibly to avoid alienating deep-pocketed fossil fuel interests during a recall drive.

“I think it would be political — I don’t want to use the word ‘suicide’ — but it’s extremely risky for him, especially now as the winds blowing against him are picking up. I don’t think he will pick a big fight with oil right now,” said Chandra Commuri, a public policy researcher at California State University, Bakersfield. “At the end of the day, he wants to remain governor; he has ambitions for higher office. I’m pretty sure he knows what’s best for him in the long run.”

Local leaders were more interested in the plan’s positive effects on jobs, as well as the new revenues that oil and gas expansion will bring to county coffers, providing more money for education, law enforcement, and other public services.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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