Fresno County leaders call for domestic oil production in California

Fresno County leaders on Tuesday urged state leaders to boost national oil production in light of rising gas prices for consumers, farmers and other key industries in the central San Valley. Joaquin in California.

In a unanimous vote, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to “help offset some of the costs that our consumers and farmers and everyone else are experiencing,” Board Chairman Brian Pacheco said during an interview. a press conference after Tuesday’s vote.

The resolution, proposed by supervisors Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig, calls on California to increase domestic oil production.

In addition to Fresno County residents and consumers, county officials said local agriculture and transportation industries are “severely impacted” by current fuel prices.

“We’re trying to wake up the legislature and the governor” to the fact that California once produced most of the oil it consumed, Magsig said Tuesday.

In addition to the bipartisan resolution, supervisors called on Sacramento to loosen oil and gas industry regulations and issue more drilling permits.

While supervisors said they supported banning Russian oil imports, they also said domestic production was a better alternative than importing oil from countries like Venezuela, Iran and Arabia. saudi. “My opinion – some of these actors aren’t much better than Russian actors,” Brandau said. “So why don’t we just produce this oil at home and refine this oil at home?”

Several Fresno County business leaders joined supervisors in the call for increased domestic oil production, calling it a food security and national security issue.

“A nation that cannot feed itself or feed itself cannot defend itself. Foreign oil and foreign food are two areas where we should never be dependent on anyone else,” said Daniel Hartwig, president of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Environmental and community leaders criticized the supervisor’s resolution, saying it led the county in the wrong direction and risked increasing harm to people near oil operations.

The call for increased oil production is at odds with the direction of state efforts to limit oil production and greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has called for an end to the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, as well as a ban on fracking by 2024 and a phase-out of mining oil by 2045.

During his annual state of the state address earlier this month, Newsom offered a rebate program to offset rising gas prices.

The Fresno County Oil Industry

Fresno County is an oil producing region. A 2019 report by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation on the state of California’s oil and gas industry found that in 2019, Fresno County had a total of 3,697 oil wells, of which 1,984 were active. and 1,713 were inactive.

County supervisors have estimated that between six and 10 million barrels of oil are produced annually in Fresno County.

Most of the oil wells are in the western Fresno County fields in Coalinga, but there are other fields just a few dozen miles from the southwest Fresno communities near Kerman and Riverdale, Supervisor Buddy Mendes said Tuesday.

Mendes said that in addition to oil production, he would like to see fracking “across the entire west side” as well.

The LAEDC report also found that in 2017, approximately 2,969 jobs in Fresno County depended on oil and gas.

Fresno County’s oil industry is a “vital part of our local economy,” supervisors said in their resolution, noting that the industry provides millions of dollars in taxes that benefit schools and public safety while creating hundreds of well-paying skilled jobs.

The total economic output is estimated at $389 million.

“Chevron, Fresno County’s leading oil producer, is consistently one of the top five assessed value taxpayers in Fresno County,” the resolution reads. However, at Tuesday’s supervisory board meeting, Brandau said he was currently eighth on the list.

Representatives of local agriculture, construction and trucking industries joined supervisors in calling for increased domestic oil production for trade and job creation reasons.

“Every segment of the food chain is currently experiencing significant increases in energy costs, which is creating price spikes” in supermarkets, said Hartwig of the agricultural bureau. “It’s important to note that as farmers and ranchers, however, we don’t see any increase in grocery money on our farms.” Rising gasoline prices, fertilizer prices and water scarcity all impact farmers’ profits, Hartwig said.

Chuck Riojas, executive director of the Fresno/Madera/Tulare/Kings Building Trades Council, said the building trades council has always advocated for more domestic oil. “All of these refinery jobs are paid jobs,” Riojas said, and have adequate health care and pension plans.

In recent years, the state has launched a “just transition” initiative to help the state’s 112,000 oil and gas workers transition into new jobs, which policymakers say is a necessary step as the state seeks to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by approximately 40%. % by 2030.

“Impulse reaction” to rising gasoline prices?

A number of community voices say they disagree with the supervisor’s resolution, saying it’s time for the state to transition to clean energy.

“The last thing California needs is fueling future crises with more oil and gas permits,” said Destiny Rodriguez, regional community relations manager with the nonprofit The Climate Center.

“Our continued reliance on fossil fuels is inherently dangerous and unstable, sacrificing the health of frontline communities to boost profits for oil executives,” Rodriguez said in an email to The Bee. “In fact, California’s high gas prices are the result of market manipulation by the fossil fuel industry, not poor supply.”

Kobi Naseck is the coalition coordinator for VISIÓN, or Voice in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods, which includes local groups such as the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition and the Central California Environmental Justice Network in the greater Fresno area.

Naseck said any new oil and gas infrastructure would be a “knock-on reaction” to rising gas prices.

“This oil drilling is happening in our backyards, and new permits or renewed rework permits will plague our communities for decades while doing nothing for near-term production,” Naseck said. “To protect consumers and the more than two million Californians who live with the toxic consequences of neighborhood oil drilling, we must break our addiction to unpredictable and volatile fossil fuels.”

A group of Fresno-area interfaith leaders sent a letter to the Board of Overseers, signed by 74 signatures from faith leaders and community members, calling on county leaders to take action to address the impact of the climate change on the county.

“The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights what countless studies have already amply demonstrated: that human actions are altering our vital water, air and soil systems. “, the leaders told supervisors in their letter.

The letter called on the oversight board to reconsider its recent rejection of a state grant that would have funded the Fresno County Public Health Department to study the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations in the county.

“Time is running out to take effective action on climate change,” the leaders wrote. “As decision makers, you are in positions that allow you to support initiatives that will help keep the county livable and as healthy as possible for current and future generations.”

Melissa Montalvo is a reporter for The Fresno Bee and a Report for America staff member. This article is part of The California Dividea collaboration between newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

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Melissa Montalvo covers poverty and inequality in California’s Central Valley for The Fresno Bee/CalMatters as a member of Report for America Corps. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in International Relations, minors in Business Law and French, and Renaissance Scholar and Global Scholar Honors.

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