Category: Op-Ed

Oily, Dirty Laundry

By Christine Harbster

Pandemic birthdays trudge up images of virtual hugs and kisses, drive bys with signs, and video chats with loved ones saying next birthday will be better.  Yet one of the top oil lobbyists, Jason Kinney, spent his pandemic birthday with Governor Gavin Newsom at the world renown restaurant The French Laundry at the beginning of November. [1] Governor Newsom continually preaches being a leader in driving the global effort to fight climate change yet continues to willfully overlook the local fossil fuel efforts in his own state [2].

Kern County, home to Bakersfield and the third worst air in the country, is considering revisions to a zoning ordinance for oil and gas permitting that has already been the subject of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) based lawsuits from environmental and social justice groups [3] [4].  While zoning ordinances usually do not incite the public’s ire, this one should cause serious alarm.  Multiple environmental and public interest groups are lighting the beacons to get attention to this community of mainly black and brown populations where one in five live in poverty. [5][6] Kern County pumps out eighty percent of the oil and gas in the state from its 70,000 plus wells and the revision would fast track permits for [wait for it] another 67,000 wells with little room for environmental oversight for the next [wait for it] twenty years. [4]

Even amongst a pandemic that has highlighted the disproportional disparities suffered by communities of color, elected California representatives are airing their dirty laundry right in front of the communities that elected them.  Social justice and environmental justice are interlinked, yet instead of driving sustainable action for their communities, Governor Newson and the Kern County representatives are following oil and gas lobbyists driving them to profits.  However, there is still time to take action before the Kern County Board of Supervisors make their final decision sometime in March 2021. Make your voice heard by signing a petition to Governor Newsom, email or call to record a public comment to the Kern County Planning Commission, or virtually attend the Kern County Planning Commission Hearing on February 11, 2021 at 7pm [6][7].  After this public hearing, the commission will than make their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  If California representatives really want to be global leaders on climate change, they better start acting like it on their own land. 

[1] https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/11/16/newsoms-cozy-ties-with-top-lobbyist-showcased-by-french-laundry-dinner-party-1336601

[2] https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/10/07/governor-newsom-launches-innovative-strategies-to-use-california-land-to-fight-climate-change-conserve-biodiversity-and-boost-climate-resilience/

[3] https://www.stateoftheair.org/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

[4] https://kernplanning.com/SREIR2020-oil-gas-zoning-revisions/

[5] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/kerncountycalifornia

[6] https://crpe-ej.org/stopkernoilordinance\

[7] http://sc.org/kernoil