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Cleanup Continues on Large Oil Spill in Kern County


Monday, July 15, 2019   

MCKITTRICK, Calif. – Conservation groups are calling for a ban on new drilling as crews assess the damage from a large oil spill in Kern County.

Chevron reports that one of its wells near McKittrick has leaked more than 500,000 gallons of oil and wastewater into a dry creek bed. The leak started in May and continued intermittently until crews sealed it last week.

Hollin Kretzmann, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, says the spill is no small matter.

"It's massive,” he stresses. “This is bigger than the Plains All American Pipeline spill that California experienced a few years ago. This volume of oil and water could cover a football field about 2 1/2 feet deep."

Chevron, in a statement, said there has been no impact to waterways or wildlife.

But Kretzmann says the leak will contaminate the soil and could seep into groundwater – and that chemicals could evaporate and pollute the air.

Mary Salas Fricke, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention, says her agency has not witnessed any oiled birds so far, but it won't make a full assessment until it gets the thumbs up from the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

"They're using pumps to remotely remove product from the containment area,” she states. “And we're waiting on DOGGR and Chevron to deem the impacted area safe for entry in order to oversee full onsite cleanup using heavy equipment."

Kretzmann wants the state to stop approving new drilling and wind down the existing fossil fuel extraction in California. He maintains the agency has been "captured" by the industry it is supposed to regulate.

"DOGGR has employees that have investments in oil companies, who have worked for oil companies in the past,” he points out. “And this type of accident is the result of having an agency that has been asleep at the wheel. "

Late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired the head of DOGGR, saying the agency approved too many fracking permits and failed to police any conflicts of interest by employees who owned oil industry stocks.

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