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A Conversation with…Zack Scrivner: Why we’re taking our pro-oil case to Sacramento

Saying the loss of oil and gas production would be catastrophic for Kern County, Scrivner is leading the charge to defend the local industry against onerous measures by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration

Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner is leading county efforts to fight back against an “attack” by California’s current administration that jeopardizes oil industry jobs and the county’s tax base.

On Dec. 10, 2019, Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner and his four fellow supervisors voted unanimously to hold a public forum seeking input from Kern’s petroleum industry on its economic importance. They also invited Gov. Newsom and members of his administration to appear before the board to promote further dialogue between Kern County’s leaders, the petroleum industry and the state.

All that took place at a Jan. 14 meeting in Bakersfield, attended by an estimated 1,000 industry supporters. Although Newsom didn’t attend, he was represented by two top state oil regulators and his legislative affairs director. Here, Scrivner explains his actions.

What prompted you to take the pro-oil action at your Dec. 10 meeting?

Governor Newsom’s recent announcement of a moratorium on new high-pressure cyclic steam permits, a hold on the issuance of hydraulic fracturing permits, and his policy directive to phase out fossil fuels in the state completely sent shock waves throughout our community and among companies that would like to invest in Kern. Berry Petroleum, which operates mostly in California, saw its company stock price drop by 50% in one day following the governor’s announcement. 

To me, the governor’s attack on our oil industry was a clear threat to our jobs, our tax base and our ability to prosper as a community. I felt that I needed to do something to help save our county from this ceaseless assault from the liberal majority in Sacramento.  

What does the County of Kern hope to achieve with this effort?

I hope to demonstrate to the governor the resolve of our community to support and defend our oil and gas industry, which provides Kern County with nearly 25,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributes $925 million annually in state and local taxes, and contributes $9.1 billion to our economy. We must also explain to him that our oil and gas industry in Kern is the cleanest, safest and most responsible in the nation, as a result of our EIR and permitting process, including over $85 million in mitigation paid to clean up our valley’s air since the system was adopted in December 2015. How does it make sense to destroy our local oil industry, and then import even more foreign oil from the Middle East and South America, where environmental standards and human rights protections are little or non-existent? Let our local industry supply California’s needs for the next 40 years. 

What would the loss of the oil and gas industry mean for Kern County?

The loss of the industry would be catastrophic for Kern County. The Board of Supervisors declared a Fiscal Emergency three years ago when the price of a barrel of oil dropped, blowing a $44.5 million structural deficit in our General Fund. This caused a tremendous strain on our ability to close the deficit through budget cuts. We prioritized public safety over other general fund departments, but there were still impacts to the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Probation and other departments.   

What steps are underway so far?

Our board hearing on Jan. 14 was the first step. Next will be the meeting of our Board-appointed delegation that will hopefully be granted by Gov. Newsom.  

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