Fracking (8)-52

Trucks line the Chevron fracking pad in Lost Hills during a hydraulic fracturing operation at the lease in this file photo.

A four-year-old effort to assess the effects of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands in Kern County and elsewhere in California has drawn 8,400 public comments, most of them from the Central Coast.

The responses, 2.5 percent of which have been classified as unique and substantive, are summarized in a scoping report released Thursday by the Bakersfield field office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM is studying hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, after being sued in 2014 by environmentalist activist groups contending the agency leased land for use in petroleum production without considering how the oil well stimulation technique impacts water and air quality.

A draft environmental report covering 1.2 million acres of federal land in California is expected to be released for public comment in February.

Bakersfield's home market has begun to slow down as a result of rising interest rates, according to a new report by Bakersfield's Affiliated Appraisers.

Amid the declining supply and demand expected at this time of year, the median closing price of an existing single-family home in the city — $239,950 in November — was down about 2 percent month over month and up about 2 percent year over year.

Affiliated Appraiser owner Gary Crabtree noted that despite rising interest rates, local housing affordability remains stable because of lower home prices and higher family incomes.

Hoffmann Hospice broke ground Thursday on Buena Vista Road to begin making room for an administrative office expected to be complete by next summer.

Once complete, the surrounding campus will allow the locally based hospice organization to better coordinate care for hospice patients, provide inpatient hospice care and provide grief-support services.

Klassen & Smith will lead the project's construction.

A Central Valley business advocacy organization is inviting owners of local companies to participate in a poll that will generate data for use in discussions with government policy makers.

BizFed Central Valley's poll, which takes an estimated 10 minutes to fill out, is open to all Central Valley businesses. It is intended to help politicians and regulators understand the challenges of small business.

Responses will be accepted through Christmas Day. Here is a link to the poll: https://employersgroup.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3WBWSUBFKyNmE85

Thanks to growing domestic and international demand, California almond production is likely to remain profitable even as harvests reach new highs in the coming years, according to a recent analysis by RaboResearch.

The report says production is expected to rise beyond this season's record 2.45 billion pounds to surpass 3 billion pounds in 2023.

Meanwhile, the nut's "powerful combination of taste, convenience and healthfulness," along with rising incomes in developing countries, suggest prices paid to growers will probably remain about $2 per pound. They are currently about $2.30 per pound.

International tariffs on U.S. exports continue to weigh against almond prices. In their study, analysts with RaboResearch assumed Chinese, Indian and Turkish tariffs against U.S. almonds will remain in place through the 2019-20 growing season before being removed.

Kern County government has received special recognition for its partnership with St. Louis-based Enterprise Fleet Management.

Under the arrangement, Enterprise has helped the county acquire and manage a fleet of 111 vehicles. The county estimates the deal with help it save $2 million in maintenance and replacement costs during the next five years.

The pilot program's initial success earned the county a 2018 Merit Award from the California State Association of Counties.

Kern is among more than 130 government agencies Enterprise works with across the state. The company manages more than 520,000 vehicles across North America.

The largest organic farming conference in the western United States has been scheduled for Jan. 23-26 in Pacific Grove.

Touted as being of great interest to Kern County growers, the event at the Asilomar Conference Grounds consists of three to four days of workshops and other gatherings addressing technical and big-picture issues facing the organic industry and farming in general.

Registration and other information is available online at www.eco-farm.org/conference.

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