A file photo of the Kern River Oil Field.

In a first step aimed at reinstating a local oil-and-gas permitting system effectively struck down earlier this year in appeals court, Kern County this week began soliciting input on how to proceed with a comprehensive environmental review of drilling and other oil field activity around the county.

Kern's Planning and Natural Resources Department released a notice of preparation for the oil and gas supplemental recirculated environmental impact review it expects to complete on the way to restoring an ordinance that had provided more than $88 million toward air quality programs and regulatory certainty for local oil producers.

Environmental groups have vowed to oppose the industry-funded effort, as they did successfully in court after the previous review was approved by the Board of Supervisors in late 2015. They contend oil field projects' environmental footprint should be judged individually instead of the broad review the county is attempting.

Their lawsuit ultimately halted the permitting system in March. It had been joined with another suit filed by a local almond grower objecting to the way the ordinance attempts to resolve conflicts between farmers who own the surface and oil companies with rights to the underlying mineral resources.


The previous effort was strongly supported by officials at the California Department of Conservation, which had welcomed the regulatory clearance the project offered. At the time the project was being put together, the state was being accused of failing to review oil projects' environmental impacts.

The department said by email Friday that it and its oil and gas arm, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, "fully support local land-use decisions that are backed by appropriate environmental review."

It noted that, on oil permit application "job cards" issued since March 26, it is the lead agency responsible for considering environmental impacts of oil projects in Kern. That responsibility had previously fallen to the county after Kern adopted its earlier environmental review and permitting system in 2015.

"DOC will continue with its CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review process — as both Lead Agency and Responsible Agency, as warranted — as Kern County works to follow the court’s direction for correcting the parts of its EIR (environmental impact review) that the court did not approve," the department wrote.


Kern's top planner, Lorelei Oviatt, the architect of the now-nullified permitting system, noted by email Friday that the defeat of the county's permitting system has wiped away all air and water quality protections the county's ordinance had put in place.

She defended that system as the most comprehensive and restrictive in the state.

"Outside interests that call for the State to regulate us and overrule local government or that call for all drilling to stop have no regard for our economy or the services provided for our libraries, elderly population, school children, vulnerable populations like homeless veterans and the workforce that provides this critical fuel and a product found in the majority of things people use every day," she wrote.

"Kern County is a leader in all types of energy, including renewable energy," she continued, "and the 'Just Transition' movement promoted by outside interests have unrealistic understandings on the wages and government revenue from renewable energy projects compared to the Oil and Gas industry."

Oviatt told The Californian earlier that the county's upcoming review will focus on noise impacts, alternatives to the conservation easements that had been used as mitigation measures and the need to clean up "produced water" that comes up from the ground along with oil.

The county also will need to recirculate scientific studies showing oil production's health impacts on nearby communities, she said.


A "virtual" scoping meeting intended to gather comments on what all the county's review should take into account has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 13. Oviatt said details on how to attend will be posted on the county planning department's website, kernplanning.com, three days before the meeting.

The notice of preparation can be found online at kernplanning.com/environmental-doc/oil-and-gas-sreir.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect how much money Kern's oil-and-gas permitting system raised for air quality programs.

(7) comments

äänestys sininen 2020

a few years ago the wind blew a huge ash over….. but the blue mocking jays planted nuts in the grow bags beneath it in anticipation of that day….. and one grew into a seedling…. and it grew into a sapling....and it grew….. and now its in the middle of the front yard……I say someday it will be a giant oat that I can hug…….. so if A Tree can Grow in Brooklyn….. maybe a tree might grow in BakoPatch……. A file photo of the Kern River Oil Field. …what a forsaken moonscape….. looks like its occupied by aliens…… the Good Shepherds of Mother Earth

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Yorkies- you are really losing it...

BakoPatch has plenty of trees- you really don't get out very often, do you?

äänestys sininen 2020

Gene's back........ like a second wave

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Like your "Blue Wave" Yorkies...

And by that I really mean Ty-D-Bol... :)


Yeah, Folks . . . since we don't need any petro-products for . . . fuel, plastics, lubrication, carbon steel, tires, roads (asphalt), air & train travel, transmission lines, propane, agriculture (oh yeah, we grow hemp on the field edges to hide the center pot) . . . and build nuke, solar and wind plants (all good . . . but in their place) that don't use any petro products . . .

Is this 'new science' . . . or a random mental aberration . . . ? Fascinating . . . as 'green' is future . . . and oil is "The Past" . . . ?

Let's take a 'walk-thru' the house of those who advocate "oil is past" instead of "oil's fact & future reality" . . .

Brian Scott


It's gonna be a tough road ahead for oil businesses, that's for sure.


I personally would like to see the county get more involved with the future of energy. Oil is the past.

It's been a proud past. Smart and daring businessmen have made fortunes.

Workers have been well-paid.

Businesses have helped communities to grow.

But the future will be different, and we will soon be making major changes.



I'd like to see Kern County be a pioneer in modern nuclear power.

I'd like to see nuke power used to desalinate sea water and to then pump that water into the San Joaquin Valley.

I'd like to see cheap, clean reliable energy, and al the water we need, EVEN the almond growers.

Oil can't get us there.

Wind and solar won't be able to get us there for at least the next 35 years.

Sea wave energy is even farther off.


the dirty air resulting from burning oil and coal and natural gas makes Bakersfield a tough place for those people who breathe air, me included.


I just wish there was some was to help businesses with investments in oil leases and drilling equipment to transition those assets to other productive uses.



I love individuals who regurgitate the "Green New Deal" talking points without having any idea what they are talking about. Let's just take wind energy, even if it can get us there in the next 35 years. I'll discuss solar at a later date.

World energy demand has been growing at about 2 per cent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2013 and 2014, using International Energy Agency data, it grew by just under 2,000 terawatt-hours.

If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per year. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds into this so-called industry in the early 2000's.

At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area greater than the British Isles, including Ireland. Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfill the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels, which currently supply 80 per cent of global energy needs.

As far as the argument, wind turbines can become more efficient. That is a fallacy, there is a limit to how much energy you can extract from a moving fluid, the Betz limit, and wind turbines are already close to it. Their effectiveness (the load factor, to use the engineering term) is determined by the wind that is available, and that varies from second to second, day to day, year to year.

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