Bakersfield · Business

Calif. officials double down in Kern Co. standoff, reject another fracking permit

California Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk has once again rejected permit applications for fracking in Kern County.

The rejection comes as tempers are running hot between local and state officials over oil and solar energy production.

In a letter dated Monday, Ntuk told Bakersfield’s Aera Energy LLC that he denied the applications to hydraulically fracture 14 wells in the South Belridge oil field, marking the second time that he has done so in the last couple of months.

“In the exercise of my discretion under (California law)… I am denying these permit requests ‘to prevent, as far as possible, damage to life, health, property and natural resources’ and to ‘protect public health and safety and environmental quality, including [the] reduction and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the development of hydrocarbon… resources,” the letter reads. 

With the state fracking ban coming into effect in 2024, Ntuk’s rejection signals an expedited timeline for Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration in regards to energy policy. 

A spokesperson for the California Department of Conservation said that the permit denials came “on the heels of the sobering report on climate change,” referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that reported that certain climate changes throughout the world are irreversible.

Aera Energy’s first application was for 21 fracking permits in western Kern County, and the company has filed an appeal.

“It’s unfortunate and not unexpected that CalGEM continues to deny Aera’s permits based solely on politics rather than sound data or science,” Aera told the Californian.

“While the denial letters lead the public to believe that (fracking) creates risks to public health, safety and the environment, the state’s own scientific studies have validated that WST is safe. Continuing to deny these permits only puts the hardworking people of California out of work and threatens the state’s energy supplies by making California more dependent on foreign oil.” 

“In the meantime, we will continue to evaluate all of our available legal options to ensure the preservation of the (fracking) process as currently allowed by state law, under what are already the most stringent regulations in the nation. Aera will continue to focus on protecting the jobs of the thousands of men and women who safely and responsibly produce the energy that powers the economy and that Californians demand.”

Kern County Supervisors recently halted consideration of a massive solar farm near Rosamond, citing CalGEM’s rejection of Aera’s first tranche of permits and concerns about steep tax breaks for solar operators.

The project, dubbed Raceway 2.0, is set to return to the docket on Aug. 24.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.