Environmental and public health groups are urging Kern County to reject a severely flawed Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) related to proposed revisions of the county’s oil and gas zoning ordinance.
California is the nation's third largest oil-producing state, and more than 80 percent of oil produced in the state comes from Kern County. The proposed ordinance revisions, as requested by the oil industry, purport to “streamline” oil and gas permitting and environmental review in Kern County by shielding oil and gas projects from environmental review and public notice requirements for a minimum of 25 years. This means that local residents, who already breathe some of the dirtiest air in the country, will have little to no recourse to challenge future oil and gas extraction activities, including fracking and other oil drilling projects taking place in close proximity to their homes, schools and public spaces.
The comment period for the draft closes today. Numerous environmental, public health and community groups have requested to keep the comment period open longer to allow for more time to review the more than 1,800-page, highly-technical document.
“Kern County’s proposed Environmental Impact Report makes a mockery of the California Environmental Quality Act’s legal requirements and doesn’t weigh the interests of the community or environment,” said Earthjustice Associate Attorney Yana Garcia. “The proposal prohibits future review of dangerous oil extraction and well stimulation activities in the County, for a minimum of 25 years. This is dangerous given the serious gaps in information relating to the public health impacts from oil well activities throughout the county. There is no reason the public and the government’s ability to identify and control health and environmental impacts of projects should be shelved for the benefit of the oil and gas industry.”
"Historically, Kern County has failed to take a hard look at the oil industry's effects on its residents, air and water quality, agricultural land, and biological resources,” said Sierra Club Associate Attorney Elly Benson. “Unfortunately, the County is continuing to prioritize oil industry profits over the health of its local residents, who already breathe some of the dirtiest air in the country. This attempt to avoid future environmental review of individual oil and gas projects over a massive area and time period is unprecedented. State law requires that the impacts of oil and gas projects receive meaningful review."
“The Kern Draft Environmental Impact Report fails to protect the environment and public health of Kern County residents, particularly low-income residents, and Latino residents who are disproportionately impacted by oil extraction in the County,” said Sofia Parino, Senior Attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “The County’s approach to environmental analysis is to downplay the public health effects and protect the oil industry in Kern County from public accountability for the next 20-plus years. As the largest oil producing County in the state, it sets a very bad precedent for California, as we try to model equitable solutions for addressing climate change.”