An ordinance that would place restrictions on new oil operations near neighborhoods in Arvin, but leave existing operations alone, has passed another hurdle and could be voted into law later this month.
The Arvin City Council voted 3-0 Tuesday to approve the introduction and first reading of the ordinance that Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola says is a response by the city to long-festering concerns among residents. Two council members were absent.
The ordinance would create a 300-foot buffer zone, between new oil and gas operations and "sensitive use" locations such as homes, parks, schools and hospitals, Gurrola said.
"My No. 1 concern is the public health of my constituents," Gurrola said Thursday.
The ordinance is made up of reasonable regulation, while at the same time is tough where it needs to be.
"The state Attorney General's office agrees it's reasonable regulation," he said.
The ordinance doesn’t affect existing operations, unless they are altered or moved, a detail that may leave some residents wondering why the odors, vibrations or emissions that affect their quality of life get a pass.
"The proposed oil code amendments deal with not only the changing character of Arvin, but changes in the science and technology of oil production in the last half century," the ordinance and supporting materials say.
"These include the advent of 3-D seismic imaging technology, which is unlocking new deposits of oil and gas in previously declining and abandoned oil fields. Major technology advancements have been made in directional or slant drilling, now combined with GPS coordination and 3-D imaging to precisely locate and access gas and oil deposits. Arvin’s original oil code did not anticipate these technologies or uses."
The more than 75 pages of ordinance and supporting materials address the need for enforcement, compliance monitoring, and oversight.
The ordinance recognized the need for "financial assurances and identification of responsible parties ... and protects against potential impacts and nuisances."
It addresses oil spill containment and recovery; storage tanks; pipelines; enhanced oil recovery equipment; and drilling and abandonment operations of any new or existing well.
Willie Rivera, California Independent Petroleum Association director of regulatory affairs, spoke at Tuesday's city council meeting about members' concerns. The association provided his statement.
"While the proposed amendment under consideration by the city council has improved since its introduction in 2017, CIPA still has concerns over duplicating oversight already provided by local, regional and state agencies as well as creating undue financial burdens on operators," he said.
"We request the city of Arvin continue to engage in a productive discussion with operators to identify and address instances of duplication as this process continues and ensure that unnecessary and burdensome requirements are not placed on small operators in Arvin."
Some have suggested the ordinance is only dangerous to the oil industry if it is duplicated in other places in Kern County, like Shafter or Lost Hills or even Taft.
One thing is sure: In traditionally oil-friendly Kern, Arvin may be breaking new ground in defying the wishes of powerful oil interests.
On its Twitter page, Kern Citizens for Energy, a pro-energy coalition supported by oil and gas interests, echoed Rivera's suggestion that the ordinance has more concessions to oil producers than it did at its conception.
"Huge turnout leads to huge victory!" Kern Citizens tweeted. "While the Arvin oil ordinance is poor quality, the people of Kern affected significant changes to it, ensuring that small producers in Arvin can continue to provide jobs and produce petroleum for the people of California."
The Arvin City Council meets again July 17, when final passage of the ordinance is a distinct possibility.