Following are comments presented by WSPA President & CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd at the March 8 Kern County Board of Supervisors hearing in regards to the supplemental recirculated environmental impact report (2020/2021) for revisions to the Kern County zoning ordinance – 2020 A, focused on oil and gas local permitting.
“…The Oil and Gas Ordinance and 2015 EIR created a comprehensive streamlined permitting system for oil and gas activities in Kern County, imposing new standards and conditions for oil and gas exploration, development and production.
“The EIR introduced many new restrictive and costly requirements and mitigation measures which significantly affect industry operations. Nevertheless, WSPA strongly supported them, and continues to support them. These measures provide certainty and efficiency for the County’s streamlined permitting process.
“In our view, the Oil and Gas Permitting Program has been highly successful, helping to further responsible oil and gas development, while at the same time safeguarding the County’s environmental resources. Among other things, the program generated over $136 million in mitigation fees over the four and a quarter-years that it was in effect. We greatly appreciate the work of County staff in effective implementation of the program.
“Before you today is a Supplemental Recirculated EIR to supplement the 2015 EIR, prepared by County staff to comply with the Court of Appeal’s decision requiring additional environmental analysis of specific areas. We want to thank the staff for their tremendous hard work to prepare the SREIR.
“Most importantly, the Ordinance will require compliance with 87 mitigation measures as set forth in the Final SREIR. WSPA supports and agrees with the revised and added standards and mitigation measures in the SREIR to address the Court of Appeal’s decision and strengthen Ordinance implementation.
“Some commenters urge the County to reject the SREIR and ordinance, arguing that the County should transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy production to address the problem of global climate change. Both traditional and renewable energy have a place in responding to climate change. Switching from coal-fired to gas-fired power plants has been a major contributor to global carbon emission reductions to date. Kern County is a leading oil and gas producing county in the state of California and in the nation. At the same time, the County is also a leader in renewable energy and has permitted numerous solar and wind projects. The Ordinance and SREIR do not discourage future renewable energy development within the County.
“California’s energy industry leads in innovation and environmental stewardship. We comply with some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world and strive to operate in harmony with our neighbors and communities. California-based oil and gas production, in particular here in Kern County, provides an essential supply of energy that keeps our economy and citizens moving forward. In 2019, the oil and gas industry accounted for roughly $197 million of Kern County’s property tax revenue and over 16,000 jobs at average wages 60% above the County average…”