Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Kern County Board of Supervisors has approved new rules that supporters say will streamline oil and gas production.

The unanimous vote by the board Monday endorses a new environmental report that will make most surface production activities go through a process similar to the one to get a building permit.

The state will still regulate subsurface operations.

The City of Taft in western Kern County owes its existence to the oil industry. While the local economy has diversified, the energy industry is the still the primary economic engine of this small town, and every five years, locals throw a party to celebrate. This year, the Oildorado Days festival includes everything from an airshow and hot air balloon festival to the Oilstock music festival. On Valley Edition we spoke with one of the event's organizers, Shannon Jones about this year's activities and Taft's rich history.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Spurred on by a request by local oil industry leaders, Kern County is currently exploring a plan that would dramatically revamp the way the county permits oil and gas wells. Under an environmental study that's currently in the works, getting a new well permit could become as easy as getting a county building permit.

Report Shows Potential Fracking Problems

Jul 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new report out  Thursday says regulations for the process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" need to be tightened to prevent environmental problems.  And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, new legislation could emerge to do just that.

The peer-reviewed study from the California Council on Science and Technology was required as part of fracking legislation the state passed in 2013. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed a new person to head the regulatory agency in charge of oil and gas extraction in California. David Bunn will head the Department of Conservation, replacing former director Mark Nechodom who resigned earlier this month.

The department has been at the center of intense scrutiny over its regulatory oversight on everything from fracking to the illegal injection of oilfield wastewater water into federally protected aquifers.

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

Most drivers in California have cheered the long run of low oil prices and the effect it has in driving down the price at the pump. But for Kern County the low prices are bad news for the county and the industry that thrives there. The low price has created what some call a ‘fiscal emergency’.

Kern County is routinely one of the top oil producing counties in the country, with an industry more than 100 years old.

But that production has made the county massively dependent on the industry and the global price of oil.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In Kern County the oil industry and the world of farming are working hand in hand, but not everyone is happy about that. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports there are growing concerns over the use of oil field wastewater used to irrigate prime farmland.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Two senate committees water and the environment held a joint hearing Tuesday in Sacramento focusing on the potential contamination of federally protected aquifers by oil producers. 

The state's Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources had allowed production companies to inject oil field waste water into some aquifers that the EPA says could be used for drinking water. The revelation has resulted in the shutdown of 23 wells, slowing production in Kern County. 

California Will Strengthen Oil Drilling Waste Rules

Feb 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California says it will do a better job of monitoring oil drilling that could affect the state’s groundwater supply. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on a new plan out Monday.

Drilling for oil can be messy. About 90 percent of the fluid that comes up is waste water and the oil companies have to dispose of it somewhere. California lets them inject the waste back into the ground in designated locations. But last summer the state became aware that some of these injections were happening in unauthorized locations. That prompted a review of the practice.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Falling oil prices could deliver a big hit to the Kern County general fund. The Board of Supervisors will consider a staff proposal to declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting next week. County property tax dollars are heavily dependent on the price of oil.