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Aera’s Sistrunk advocates for oil and gas before Kern County’s Board of Supervisors

More than 1,000, including key state officials, turn out for the meeting

Aera President and CEO Christina Sistrunk addresses the Kern County Board of Supervisors Jan. 14 in Bakersfield. (Photo: Sabrina Lockhart/CIPA)

Kern County’s oil and gas industry has a history of partnership and supporting regulations, but the Newsom Administration has chosen to treat it disproportionately, Aera President and CEO Christina Sistrunk told the Kern County Board of Supervisors Jan. 14 in Bakersfield.

“They are working to fix something that isn’t broken,” Sistrunk said.

Aera’s top executive was one of more than 30 industry representatives and legislators who spoke before the board to advocate for the petroleum industry in Kern County, which produces 80% of the state’s oil and gas.

A record crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people attended the meeting at the County Administrative building downtown. Also present were three key officials from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, including Uduak-Joe Ntuk, state oil and gas supervisor with the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), formerly known as DOGGR.

The meeting’s petroleum-focused agenda followed a unanimous decision by Kern’s board of supervisors last Dec. 10 to bring together county leaders, the local oil and gas industry and state officials for a constructive dialogue. The board has expressed its support for the industry and warned of dire job and tax-base losses if California pursues a future without oil and gas production.

Armed with pro-oil signs and stickers proclaiming their role in the oil and gas industry, hundreds wait in line to attend the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting Jan. 14.

Sistrunk told the supervisors and audience that her presentation at the meeting “isn’t about me or my company. This is about the 24,000 men and women in Kern County alone whose careers are being impacted by an uncertain regulatory environment in the State of California.”

The uncertainty and lack of permits led Aera to drop a drilling rig from its 2020 drilling schedule, she said. That means a loss of jobs as 90 fewer contractor positions will be needed.

Sistrunk emphasized that her frustration with regulatory challenges and lack of permits “does not mean we don’t support our state’s leadership on their renewable energy goals.”

An overflow crowd watches from a nearby room as Board Chair Leticia Perez opens the Jan. 14 meeting that focused on supporting the Kern County oil and gas industry.

“It’s critically important to acknowledge the vital role that oil and gas will play during the state’s energy transition, and likely even beyond due to technologies like carbon capture and storage,” Sistrunk said. “Like the Department of Conservation, we understand there must be a balance between today’s challenges, tomorrow’s needs and a vision for a clean-energy future.”

During the meeting, Supervisor Zack Scrivner urged California’s government leaders to consider Kern County the model for the state, country and world for producing energy the right way.  Supervisor Maggard said he would ask the board to declare Kern County “an oil and gas sanctuary.”

You can watch the six-hour meeting here.

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