Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, is briefed by Chevron's Billy Lacobie, right, and Jason Marshall of the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources during a recent tour of the Cymric Oil Field, where a spill has released about 1.3 million gallons of fluid into a dry creek bed outside McKittrick. Since that tour, separate leaks nearby have prompted DOGGR to issue two notices of violation against Chevron.

State lawmakers will soon take up discussion of the large, uncontrolled oil releases that have recently drawn attention to Chevron Corp. operations in the Cymric Oil Field in western Kern County, legislative officials said Tuesday.

Staff to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water said it and the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources plan to convene a joint session on the leaks once the legislative session ends in a few weeks.

Chevron will likely be called to testify, staff said, as will officials from the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, which is California's primary oil-regulating agency. They noted that details on where and exactly when the hearing will take place have not been finalized.

The hearing preparations underscore the political significance of the "surface expressions" that since mid-May have brought more than 1.3 million gallons (31,000 barrels) of oily fluid to the surface near McKittrick.

Although state officials say the oil-and-water mixture that has pooled at the site has done no harm to people or the environment, and Chevron is working to remove the fluid, the accident occurred at a highly sensitive time for an industry fighting for its survival.

Environmental activists driven by a sense of climate-change urgency have called for halting oil production in California. They have focused on allegations DOGGR officials are too cozy with the oil producers they regulate.

Accusing DOGGR of accelerating certain oil permits amid findings agency supervisors own oil stocks, environmental groups succeeded earlier this summer in persuading Gov. Gavin Newsom to fire the state's oil and gas supervisor, a title given to the oil agency's top official.

The Cymric leaks have sprung from at least three different locations, one of which DOGGR says has flowed at a low rate for more than a decade. Chevron and DOGGR continue to investigate what caused the releases.

News media as far away as the Bay Area have published or broadcast reports on the surface expressions. They have featured photos of a large amount of black fluid contained within a dry creek bed.

Surface expressions have occurred periodically in Kern County oil fields. They did not violate state law until new state regulations took effect April 1. Because of the oil releases, DOGGR has issued three notices of violation to Chevron.

DOGGR spokeswoman Teresa Schilling said by email Tuesday the agency is not aware of a scheduled hearing, but added that, "if invited we will attend." She declined to say what message DOGGR would try to convey at such a hearing.

A Chevron spokesman said more or less the same thing: "If a hearing is held, and Chevron is invited to participate," he wrote, "we will do so."

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at Bakersfield.com for free newsletters about local business.

(10) comments

Thomas Murphy

Meanwhile, millions of Californians face a legitimate environmental and human health hazard with used needles, trash, feces, and urine making their way into protected watersheds.


When the air we breathe is toxic, people drug themselves, either with alcohol, cheap meth etc... If government and corporations doesn't care about public health, people won't care about themselves.

The gas chamber is turned on and the unhealthy white "boys" want it to continue. Just keep driving your trucks, hunting wildlife and drinking, you will always feel better about yourself as long as the guy on the street who has a needle in his arm is there for you to look down upon.

Chad Hathaway

Thomas way to prioritize! A concept our media often forgets.


I miss the days were blue skies were every day ! What the heck is wrong with you guys? The waste, pollutants, toxins in this Kern valley is disgusting!

Don't like it written up, then hold your favorite oil companies to a better standard.

Buy my house please, anyone. Dirt cheap for California because only people who want to live with cancer and lung disease continues to fight for their " buddies" in the oil business.

Chad Hathaway

We’re going to need you to stop the forest fires and PM air pollution while your at it if you really want to solve the problem. My “buddies” in the oil business do more than any industry I know to reduce emissions....where do you work?


John- looks to me like you have joined Eco-Nazis! Why don’t you guys “walk the talk”, ride your burro to work, quit using Petroluem products for life’s conveniences. You won’t and neither will they, hypocrites!!! Another pathetic and useless article with a liberal agenda, sad!


Have any of you figured out why the so called liberals are wealthy enough not to live here ?

Chad Hathaway

They have found a way to create tech companies that live off false valuations sans cash flow. Us dumb oil and farmer folks have to make an honest dollar.

Chad Hathaway

And....No news organization more so than our hometown paper has glorified this issue more...

Why don’t you just move on John? Find some serious pollution. Maybe focus on landfill emissions or possibly litter on our highways. This company does 1,000,000 more things for this community than your organization does.

I miss the days of Lois Henry.

Gary Crabtree

Since Kern County produces 70-90% of all oil in California, and if it's shut down, where are they going to get the fuel from to run the most populist state in automobiles? Since we are, in effect, a Socialist state, maybe we can import it from Russia or Iran? :)

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