State Senator says she's "cautiously optimistic" at West Kern Oil Museum Dinner


State Senator Shannon Grove said she is still hopeful that the state's oil industry can be saved despite strict new regulations that went into place last fall designed eventually put it out of business.

"We are getting our butts kicked ...but I am still cautiously optimistic," said Grove.

Speaking at the West Kern Oil Museum's annual dinner meeting Saturday night in Taft, Grove (R-Bakersfield) said there is an ongoing effort from Kern County's public and private sector to change Gov. Gavin Newsom's view of the oil industry and inform him of the effects the regulations are having on the County's overall economy.

The industry and its supporters say eliminating the oil industry would have a catastrophic effect on Kern County, taking way thousands of jobs and reducing the county's tax base and its ability to fund schools and public services.

"We are trying to tell him the real world things that are going on here," Grove said. "He created a lot of uncertainty here for new investment and new business."

A broad coalition from Kern County has been trying to deliver that message.

It's not just the oil industry and Grove, the State Senate Republican leader and Vince Fong, the Republican whose districts contain the oil producing land in Kern County.

It's Democrats like Kern County Board of Supervisor Chair Leticia Perez, school boards and public employee unions who have met with Newsom, she said.

The campaign came in response to a flurry of bills and executive orders in the fall that imposed strict regulations on oil production.

Newsom pledged to tighten regulations on oil operations during his campaign for governor and then signed a series of bills that had a chilling effect on the industry as 2019 came to a close.

In October, he signed a series of bills adding new regulations on oil production and abandoning old wells, appointed new officials to head up the agency that oversees the oil industry and renamed the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), changing it to Geologic Energy Management Division (GEM).

“California is a leader in the fight to transition away from fossil fuels. These bills put intentions into action,” said Newsom said as he signed them. 

A month later the fracking and steaming regulations were imposed, including a moratorium on new permits.

Berry Petroleum stock prices plunged dramatically after the announcement, and Aera cut back on its planned 2020 drilling operations, cutting 90 oil industry jobs.

Grove said they want the environmental lobby to get the message, too.

"We are trying to convince the other side that hounds us to death all the time that they can't live without or product, she said.

One of the talking points used by the oil industry and its supporters is that cutting oil production in the state doesn't affect the demand, and it will only increase imports from other nations that don't have the strict environmental controls that limit greenhouse gases.

And even with the oil industry, Kern County is carbon neutral, Grove said.