Newsom Tours Kern County Oil Spill as Locals Call for Immediate Health and Safety Protections

By Dan Bacher |  

MCKITTRICK, CA - At a time when oil and gas drilling continues to expand in California, Governor Gavin Newsom today visited the site of a big oil spill in Chevron’s Cymric oilfield in Kern County,  
The spill has seeped 974,400 gallons of a hazardous mix of oil and wastewater into the surrounding area for over two months, according to the latest data from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) of the California Department of Conservation.
In both the map of the incident (Cymric Surface Expressions) and the update on their website, they refer to the oil spill as a “surface expression” or “surface expressions.”
"I'm seeing progress," Newsom told reporters during today’s media availability on his visit to the site, where the oil and water mixture has spilled into a dry creek bed.
“During today’s media availability, the governor pledged to continue his work reforming the agency responsible for regulating the fossil fuel industry in California, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) following his firing of the head of the agency after discovering fracking permits had increased during his time in office without his knowledge,” the Last Chance Alliance reported in a statement.
“The spill has occurred at a site that employs an extreme oil-extraction technique called steam injection. Earlier this year, DOGGR adopted weaker restrictions on the practice, making these operations even more dangerous,” the coalition said
The site continues to leak and rather than focusing on stopping the spill, Chevron officials said Monday that that the company plans to appeal a state-mandated order to ‘take all measures’ to stop it and prevent future occurrence.
“While environmental justice, climate and community groups in the Central Valley affiliated with Last Chance Alliance are encouraged by the governor’s visit to the site of the massive leak, they are urging him to take immediate action to protect Californians against the state’s fossil fuel industry,” according to the coalition.
“While this incident occurred in an isolated area, other similar oil production-related incidents have occurred in proximity to Kern County communities,” said Juan Flores, a Kern County community organizer with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. “It is time that state leadership and decision-makers take action and pay attention to the gravity of such incidents. It is time that we put our money where our mouth is and set in place a buffer zone of no less than 2,500 feet to protect our communities, ecological areas and the environment as a whole.”
“We applaud the governor for coming to see first-hand the McKittrick spill. The McKittrick spill goes to show that both the regulated industry and regulators are not meeting their responsibility to protect public health and the environment,” said Cesar Aguirre, a Kern County organizer with Central California Environmental Justice Network.
“Even after the governor and his administration requested that action be taken immediately, the spill continued – to what end do you regulate a declining and irresponsible industry? We have seen issues like this before with Nelson Court, where families are still dealing with the ramifications of a leaking gas pipe. CCEJN would like to invite the governor on a tour throughout Kern County to see how this industry devastates the health of communities to understand the full scope of the oil and gas industry’s impact,” Aguirre concluded.
On July 18, DOGGR issued a statement that on Wednesday, July 17, “DOGGR field inspectors reported a small seepage of oil and water from one of three surface expression vents where the flow had previously ceased.”  
“DOGGR notified Chevron, and the Acting Oil and Gas Supervisor amended the July 1, 2019 Notice of Violation to expand the well shut-in radius from 600 to 1,200 feet. The Acting Oil and Gas Supervisor and DOGGR field engineers were on-site Thursday,” reported DOGGR.


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