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County supervisors reinstate contentious oil permitting system

March 9, 2021

Kern's Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Monday to approve a controversial oil permitting system that drew public comments lasting more than eight hours, with many of the statements focused on the effects petroleum production has on the county's minority communities.

The vote reinstitutes an over-the-counter permitting process that, until it was struck down in court in February 2020, provided local oil companies with regulatory certainty in exchange for substantial new fees.

After listening to several hundred comments from across the state, most of them opposed to the proposal, board members Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner emphasized California continues to need oil as it transitions to cleaner energy.

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More than one speaker warned of the local oil industry's "environmental segregation" and noted the communities living nearest to petroleum production in Kern tend to be poor and Hispanic. They referred to studies showing oil production increases incidence of respiratory and other ailments among people living near oilfields.

"I don't know how some of you can actually sleep enough with the new proposal. Haven't we done enough to … frontline communities?" asked Santa Cruz County resident Barbara Anderson, referring to minority populations living near oil production.