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Mon Apr 12, 2021, 07:49 AM

Horrific Air Pollution, Health Problems - What Kern County CA Needs Now Is 40,000 More Oil/Gas Wells

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The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance in March that’s likely to significantly accelerate drilling — with as many as 40,000 new oil and gas wells in Kern by mid-2030. Its language, crafted in consultation with the industry, includes a blanket environmental impact statement that will make it easier for companies to get drilling permits. “We all realize change is inevitable. New technology, new innovations will eventually change the way we produce and consume energy in the future,” Chairman Phillip Peters, whose family has deep roots in oil, said just before the vote. “But while we are looking at that, I don’t think we can ignore the present. The world still runs on Kern oil.”

The outcome, following a nine-hour hearing that was one of the longest in board history, is a window on the stakes involved as communities and states try to shift away from fossil fuels to slow climate change. In Kern, it raises land-use and groundwater issues, further pitting the oil and gas industry against the equally important agricultural sector. For the region’s large Hispanic community — families who live or work near the open wells — it puts their health even more in the crosshairs.

"The reality is that we’re so afraid,” Estela Escoto said Tuesday through a interpreter. “Everything that the oil industry and the gas industry have dumped into our communities are only bad things.” On a hot afternoon, residents can barely see the Sierra Nevada mountains that border the valley to the east because of the dense pollution. Drilled wells release greenhouse gas emissions that are major contributors to climate change and respiratory problems. The closer the proximity to the source, studies show, the higher the risk.

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The county has more than 47,000 active wells and more than 25,000 idle wells, according to data from the California Geologic Energy Management Division. They’re readily visible from roadways. Many are only hundreds of feet from homes, schools and farms. Farmers worry about what’s to come and how their land — which produces a bounty of almonds, grapes and pistachios — will be affected in the long term. They note their importance to the county, with agriculture a vital economic force in Kern. Nearly 6 percent of jobs are in the extraction or construction industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Farming, fishing and forestry jobs constitute 13 percent. “My immediate concern is how they treat our surface, how much acreage they take out of farming,” said almond farmer Keith Gardiner, who owns and operates more than 20,000 acres in addition to a farm management company in Kern. He contends that he has “lost millions” in revenue because of groundwater contamination over the years.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/a-california-county-despite-the-states-climate-goals-further-embraces-fossil-fuels/2021/04/09/43b28254-9655-11eb-962b-78c1d8228819_story.html

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