Kern led the Central Valley in personal income growth in 2012, even as the county's year-over-year increase of 6.0 percent was 2.1 percentage points lower than 2011's rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Valley's next highest 2012 personal income growth rate (measured across a federally designated metropolitan statistical area) was that of Madera, with 4.7 percent, followed by Sacramento's 4.5 percent. Fresno's rate was 3.6 percent.

Although the bureau did not offer explanations for Kern's relative strength, it noted that some of the nation's highest personal income rates occurred in places of heavy oil production, such as Midland, Texas and parts of North Dakota.

Kern County topped a new ranking of U.S. cities with proportionately large trade relationships with Canada and Mexico.

According to the list released last month by the Brookings Institution, 44 percent of all Kern's international trade -- that is, imports and exports combined -- was done with the two countries. Such trade amounts to $2.1 billion, the report stated.

Trade in energy products between Kern and the two countries totals $1.1 billion a year, followed by agriculture, estimated at $375 million.

El Paso, Texas ranked second on the list, followed by the Detroit area.

Aera Energy LLC and its employees have raised more than $500,000 for delivery Tuesday to four local charitable organizations.

To mark Giving Day, the Bakersfield-based oil producer plans to present two checks to the United Way of Kern County. One, for about $161,000, represents the company's match for employee donations earlier in the year; the other is a $50,000 check supporting United Way's collaboration with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation on community engagement.

Aera is also donating $100,000 each to: Friends of Mercy Foundation, for its Mercy Hospitals Community Care Initiative; San Joaquin Community Hospital Foundation, to help fund a patient exam room in the Breast Center of the AIS Cancer Center; and Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation, to help buy Dr. Seuss artwork for the Lauren Small Children's Medical Center.

The state Department of Conservation is coming to Bakersfield Dec. 12 to gather thoughts about what should be included in an environmental review of proposed rules for the oilfield technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

The scoping meeting, one of five statewide, is to take place from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave.

The environmental review must be certified by July 1, 2015. The review's notice of preparation can be viewed online at

A Canadian company has agreed to pay $2.2 million for the rights to develop a 20-megawatt AC solar plant near Bakersfield.

Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., an Oakville, Ontario company with $3.2 billion in North American utilities investments, announced on Thanksgiving that one of its subsidiaries, Algonquin Power Co., entered into the agreement with Valos Solar Ventures LLC.

The plant, called Bakersfield Solar, is expected to cost $58.5 million to build, including purchase of the underlying real estate. It would sell its electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. under a 20-year power purchase contract.