Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 11, 2018


Caroline Farrell, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, (661) 720-9140,
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3051,
Hollin Kretzmann, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7133, 
Colin O’Brien, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000,

Appeal Challenges Kern County’s Oil Well Permitting Scheme

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— Community and environmental groups filed an appeal today challenging a Kern County Superior Court’s decision upholding a county ordinance that fast-tracks oil and gas permitting.

The ordinance — drafted by the oil industry itself — allows thousands of new oil and gas wells to be drilled every year without any site-specific environmental review or public notice for the next 25 years or more.

“Kern residents living closest to oil and gas wells have been concerned about the impacts increased drilling has on their health,” said Caroline Farrell, an attorney representing local community groups Committee for a Better Arvin, Committee for a Better Shafter and Greenfield Walking Group. “They already suffer from some of the worst air in the nation and water that they cannot drink.”

The ordinance, which three oil-industry groups spent more than $10 million to develop, was adopted in 2015 by the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Community and environmental groups then sued Kern County to overturn it.

On April 20, 2018 the court issued a judgment upholding the ordinance despite finding the county’s environmental impact report was flawed and violated the California Environmental Quality Act. Specifically, the court found that the report failed to consider the health and environmental dangers of road-paving as a mitigation measure and also neglected to assess the destruction of valuable rangeland.

The ordinance will inflict the most harm on Kern County’s low-income communities and communities of color, who already breathe some of the dirtiest air in the nation. Fracking and other oil-production projects are disproportionately sited near their homes, schools and public spaces. Under the ordinance, they will have little to no recourse to challenge further oil and gas extraction in their neighborhoods. 

Today’s appeal will be heard by the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, Calif.

“This ordinance is a dangerous scheme cooked up by the county and the oil industry to dodge our state’s bedrock environmental protections,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll keep fighting for the health and future of Kern County residents and to stop this disastrous polluter giveaway.”

“We will continue to fight back against this attempt by the Kern County Board of Supervisors to put Big Oil's interests above the health and safety of our communities,” said Gordon Nipp, vice chair of the Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter. “We should not be forced to breathe dirty air and drink contaminated water in the name of fossil fuel industry profits. We demand better — better for our families, better for our health and better for our environment.”

“Kern County should not and cannot ignore state-mandated environmental review for 20 plus years just to appease the oil industry, all to the detriment of the health and safety of local communities. The county’s maneuver to skirt thorough environmental review is unprecedented and unlawful,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Colin O’Brien.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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