Kern County is one of the leading oil-producing counties in the nation and the benefit of this industry is not just seen in our county, but globally, as our oil fields help power California and much of the world. Kern County produces 72 percent of California’s oil and 70 percent of our natural gas. The industry also fosters stability and economic growth as well as enhances the health, education and economic development within our communities.
California relies on Kern County for oil. The governor and California lawmakers need to understand and support our efforts. Unfortunately, the livelihoods of those who rely on the domestic oil industry are under attack.
The oil industry provides everyday individuals with extraordinary opportunities. As one of the largest employers in our area, the oil industry plays an important role in the livelihoods of so many of our families and neighbors. I have had the opportunity to hear the powerful stories of countless oil workers. Many oil workers are without a college degree, lack a high school diploma or have been rehabilitated through the criminal justice system. Instead of living off welfare, working a minimum wage job, being homeless or re-entering prison, these workers have the chance to buy homes, receive health and retirement benefits and provide a stable living for their families.
In addition to providing high-wage jobs to second chancers, hard workers and many others within our community, the industry gives back to the society that supports it. For example, since 2016, Chevron has contributed nearly $9 million to several community partners and local nonprofit organizations. These partnerships with the oil industry help promote education, economic and workforce development, and have helped make a positive impact in the lives of residents and communities not only in Kern County but throughout the Central Valley as well.
Since 1985 California’s oil production has dropped 50 percent and our reliance on foreign oil has increased 12 fold, from 5 percent to more than 60 percent. California has strict requirements and oil companies conduct their work in the safest and most environmentally responsible manner seen anywhere in the world. Foreign oil producers do not follow the same ethical and environmental standards as do those within our state. California politicians and the governor should be producing California’s oil, instead of supporting foreign regimes with little to no care for respecting the environment or human rights.
It’s difficult for our Kern County job creators to continue operating in an environment of misinformation and bias.
Current misinformation being shared regarding the oil industry relates to the recent oil seepage. Instead of calling the seepage what it is, seepage, the mainstream media has hostilely labeled it a spill and has not told the whole story.
Here is the real story: On May 10, Chevron discovered a seepage of a water and oil mixture flowing into Cymric Field that stopped within a few hours. Over the past two months, additional flow locations have become active, and all the fluids have been contained, recovered and are being processed to someday end up in a vehicle. The appropriate state agencies were properly notified and, as cleanup continues, Chevron has been in regular contact with community stakeholders, included elected officials like me. There is no immediate threat to residents, and the closest town, McKittrick, is 3 miles away from the site. We also know there has been no observed impact to wildlife or the area.
While the volume of fluids that the seepage has produced is not insignificant, neither is it catastrophic. The 1 million gallons of fluid is 30 percent oil and 70 percent unusable, brackish water. It is safely contained and being recovered. The seepage has affected an area of less than an acre in size, or about 1/500th of the Cymric field’s nearly 500 acres. Simply put, that is equivalent to 20 swimming pools in a 500-acre oilfield, and 70 percent of those swimming pools contain water.
It is difficult for those in the oil industry to operate in this state when the facts are not evaluated, misinformation is spread and unfair standards are applied.
Our community trusts the industry because we have lived with it and have worked in or around it for generations. And we know it’s here for the long haul as the world’s growing energy demands will require the industry to keep investing and producing.
The oil way of life is critical to the Central Valley’s economic prosperity, community development and stability of our families. Californians need the oil industry. The oil industry needs California to step up and support our way of life, not attack it.
State Sen. Shannon Grove represents California’s 16th Senate District and is the currently the Senate Republican Leader.