Support an all-of-the-above approach to energy production and use
Bakersfield Californian Op-Ed
Washington, September 4, 2022
Read the Op-Ed in the Bakersfield California
Taking a drive through Bakersfield, you’re almost sure to pass at least one oil derrick pump. For the city that’s home to the Bakersfield High School “Drillers,” it doesn’t come as a surprise that Kern County is the seventh largest oil-producing county in the nation. The oil and gas industry in Kern County accounts for a quarter of the county’s revenue and employs thousands of people. It is the No. 1 industry in the county in terms of gross domestic product and tax contributions.
But, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Democrats want to overregulate this industry into oblivion at a time when we should be streamlining processes and cutting red tape to increase domestic energy production and support local economies with jobs.
Earlier this month, the state of California reached a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that placed a federal moratorium on new oil and gas leases in the valley until they conduct an “adequate environmental review.” The issue is that the BLM field office in Bakersfield already conducted an environmental review about the impacts on oil drilling in Kern County and found that “there are no adverse environmental impacts due to hydraulic fracturing that cannot be alleviated,” according to their 2019 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
The most recent environmental review is based on the best available science, went through public notice and a comment period, and was even scrutinized in several public meetings. Stakeholder concerns were acknowledged and addressed through this transparent process. Ultimately, these lands in the Central Valley were identified as suitable for development.
We need to have commonsense regulations in place to avoid pollution that could be dangerous for our communities. But the governor is so eager to appease Sacramento environmentalists that he isn’t considering the thousands of people whose livelihoods come from energy production here in Kern.
According to a 2019 study from the Institute for Applied Economics for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the oil and gas industry supports 365,970 total jobs in California and 38,940 jobs in the San Joaquin Valley. In terms of annual property taxes, from fiscal year 2018 to 2019, the oil and gas industry contributed more than $80 million to Kern County; more than $103 million for local school districts; and more than $12 million for local special districts for a total of almost $200 million per year. The industry is responsible for billions of dollars in state and local tax revenue that funds vital community services like public schools, hospitals, and law enforcement across the state.
While the governor has stated that California “needs to move beyond oil,” I hope the governor considers the detrimental economic impact that overregulation and rushed removal of this industry will have across our region and state.
We’ve seen what happens to cities and towns that have their entire industry wiped out. When this happens, unemployment skyrockets, the area becomes unattractive for new businesses and investment, and people have no choice but to look elsewhere for employment. We only need to look at Rust Belt cities in the Midwest as a warning for Kern County if the state continues to disregard the people and communities this industry supports.
We have resources right here in our own backyard that can and should be used. While we, as a country, should continue to develop and pursue other sources of energy, we cannot abandon traditional energy sources. I support an all-of-the-above approach to energy production and use, but that does not mean immediately transitioning to 100 percent renewable fuels. Until those energy sources are more reliable, we must continue production and development of traditional fuels.
Preventing adequate energy production in the Central Valley not only hurts Californians, but the entire country. Russia’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated the national security risk that relying on foreign imports presents. Reckless decisions like the ones that resulted in this settlement continue to jeopardize our hope of once again being an energy independent country.
Last week, I led the Central Valley delegation in a letter to the governor requesting he work quickly with BLM to ensure production can begin soon. I urge the governor to consider the benefits of energy independence, increased job opportunities, economic prosperity, grid reliability and more.