Inside Aera

 

Energy Matters Oct 15, 2020

Aera’s No. 1 priority, our critical energy role and the work ahead

Aera’s new president and CEO weighs in on Aera’s responsibility to help fuel California — and why Gov. Newsom’s ban on gas-powered cars and fracking will be challenging to implement

Meet Erik Bartsch, Aera's new president and CEO

Meet Erik Bartsch, Aera’s new president and CEO, in this short video clip.

My family and I are happy to be back in California after a three-year stay in Europe. For sure, we would have chosen a different time to move than during a pandemic, which has created a few challenges for us.

It may surprise you to know that I just went into my office at Aera for the first time in early October, after being here in Bakersfield for over three months.

As you can imagine, Aera is an essential business in the state. Even so, we ask people who can work from home to do so, including me. So, with the exception of safety engagements at our field locations, I am working from home these days.

Bakersfield is a friendly, welcoming place. Many people talk about it online, and it’s humbling to experience it first-hand. My family and I have felt very welcomed, and we are settling in well.

Aera’s ongoing priorities

As I settle into my new role, I want to share what I believe is important as we all move forward.

Aera’s No. 1 priority has not changed: to safely and responsibly deliver energy to the 19 million people we serve in California every day.

“Aera’s No. 1 priority has not changed: to safely and responsibly deliver energy to the 19 million people we serve in California every day.”

Aera accounts for about 25% of the state’s oil production. We know how critical it is to fuel the state with affordable, accessible energy for everyone. The oil we produce enables millions of Californians to travel to work every day, allows businesses to grow and thrive, and helps California-grown food arrive at dinner tables.

We also play a key role in supporting the economic recovery in our great state. In fact, I’ve had the honor of joining Governor Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, which gives me additional insight on how challenging the economic recovery is for people and businesses across the state today.

All this is core to our purpose and something I think a lot about: How does Aera remain as vital and critical to the state in the next 25 years as it has been in the first 23?

Aera's commitment to the communities where we operate is part of our DNA, says Bartsch.

Aera’s commitment to the communities where we operate is part of our DNA, says Bartsch.

Remaining invested in our communities

One of the things that has impressed me already is how, at Aera, our commitment goes far beyond donations or contributions from the company and gets very personal in the communities where we live and work.

“We know that our neighbor’s success is also our success.”

Our people work with pride in Kern, Ventura, Monterey and Fresno counties. And we know that our neighbor’s success is also our success. We’re not only proud to support local communities through creating jobs but proud of our partnerships with community organizations and our investments in building stronger neighborhoods and cities together.

Our commitment is as strong as ever, and I would expect no change. This is a part of Aera’s DNA.  I’m looking forward to getting more personally involved, once COVID-19 makes that possible.

Why I believe Gov. Newsom’s climate-change executive order will be challenging to implement

I believe climate change is a reality. And I believe fossil-fuels will continue to be a necessity for decades to come. As the world evolves, it is Aera’s goal to deliver solutions expected by our employees, our families and the people of California.

What I see is that the Governor is mostly taking a “demand before supply” strategy, asking consumers to make substantially different choices over the next generation. What I am wondering is whether the moves the state is making really pass the test of being affordable, feasible and equitable for all Californians. 

In many ways, the Governor’s executive order raises more questions than answers about how the people of California will continue to thrive through the energy transition he envisions.

False progress on fracking

An area that I’m concerned about today is the Governor’s suggested phase-out of well stimulation treatments, or fracking, in California, to begin in 2024-25. This would be false progress. It doesn’t address the problem the Governor wants to solve, and it will be challenging to implement. Let me explain why.

“Make no mistake: The idea of banning fracking is really about stopping oil production, not about safety.”

First, we know that the type of mini-fracs Aera executes can be done safely and without impact to the environment. The process has been used safely in California for more than 60 years. Our people live and work in the communities where we operate, and we want to see safety and the environment protected.

Late last year, California took the step of asking companies to go through a rigorous, external review, led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), before well stimulation permits would be considered. This unprecedented review has not been seen elsewhere. What happened? Every Aera permit that has been subjected to this rigorous process has been recommended for approval — without exception.  As a result, Aera was recently awarded the first fracking permits in the state since the LLNL process was put in place.

Make no mistake: The idea of banning fracking is really about stopping oil production, not about safety.

Every day this year, Californians have consumed over 50 million gallons of oil to fuel our economy.

Every day this year, Californians have consumed over 50 million gallons of oil to fuel our economy.

Consider this: Every day this year, Californians have consumed over 50 million gallons of fuel to drive our economy, including hard-to-decarbonize sectors that Californians will continue to rely on as the state undertakes its energy transition. 

Oil is used for all kinds of things, ranging from parts for electric vehicles, to building blocks for medicines, to fuel for airplanes. So, we know oil will be a part of a strong California economy for decades to come, even as the transportation sector evolves. The question is: Where do we want it to come from? 

Californians may not know that nearly 70% of the oil we use today comes across the sea, from South America and the Middle East, places with environmental practices that are not consistent with California’s values. 

I would argue that even if you are a person who wants to see oil be less a part of California’s future, banning fracking today is the wrong move. Instead, we should support California petroleum producers, whose necessary, safe and affordable production is essential to protecting Californians’ way of life.

Lastly, this ban does not help the climate. Mini-frac operations in the state today produce oil under some of the world’s strictest regulations, already mandated with safety and environmental protection in mind. By targeting this technology, policymakers would not only be ignoring the scientific review that confirms it is safe but eliminating production most aligned with the state’s climate ambitions.

I live here with you — and need oil and gas production to be safe. Aera supports a healthy regulatory process and welcomes scientific review. 

But looking at this issue through the lens of safety, energy transition, jobs or the economy, banning mini-fracs in California is bad policy that will result in pain for the people in our communities with no gain for the state.

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We live our safety motto that “Every day, everybody goes home alive and well!” / DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy has been honored with the North American Maintenance Excellence Award and the AME Manufacturing Excellence Award.

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