California’s Kern County must find tax revenue if oil drilling ends

Long a leader in environmental regulations, California plans to phase out oil drilling in the state by 2045 as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Our state’s economy is not heavily dependent on fossil fuels like, say, the economies of West Virginia or Oklahoma. But ending oil production here would still pose a major challenge for at least one pocket of the Golden State.

About a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles is Kern County, our own oil country. Kern County produces 70% of the state’s oil. Industry is responsible for 16,000 jobs there.

And, more importantly, oil and gas generate nearly a quarter of the county’s property tax revenue, which funds schools, law enforcement, hospitals and other public services. “Nowhere else in California is tied to oil and gas like we are, and we can’t replace what it brings overnight,” county administrative manager Ryan Alsop said in New York. Times.

My colleague Brad Plumer recently visited Kern County and wrote about his struggle to stop oil drilling, even in a state so determined to reduce its carbon footprint. Kern County offers a glimpse of the problems other communities across the United States may face as they also try to disentangle themselves from fossil fuel income.

The problem comes down to this: if California shuts down oil drilling, Kern County needs another source of revenue to keep its roads paved and its libraries open. Some have suggested looking into renewable energy, as the county is already the state’s largest supplier of wind and solar energy. Local leaders also discuss expanding industries like aerospace, manufacturing, hydrogen or biodiesel production, or even carbon capture technology.

“Politicians, corporations, environmentalists, academics — everyone is seriously thinking about how the county can reinvent itself,” Brad told me. “But all of these strategies take time, and they could take longer than the county if the state is serious about phasing out oil production so quickly.”

If Kern County waits for tax revenues and jobs to dry up, it will likely become more difficult to attract new business. People won’t want to move to a place that’s struggling to fund its parks, police department, or social services.

There are many examples of places that struggled to rebound after their primary industry disappeared, including the coal-mining communities of West Virginia and the towns of the Rust Belt after the decline of heavy industry.

A model for Kern County could be Tonawanda, a town in western New York that lost millions in tax revenue after a coal plant shut down in 2015. The New York State Legislature has helped replace the funds, and the city is now looking to redevelop its waterfront and develop industries like tire manufacturing.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has already offered $65 million to support and retrain displaced oil and gas workers in the state, $200 million to clean up abandoned wells, and $450 million to help communities recover. diversify their economies.

It’s possible the state will commit more as the end of oil drilling nears, but it’s still unclear how that money should best support Kern County, Brad said.

“It seems the state is very aware of this issue and sensitive to it,” he said. “It’s just a really tough challenge, and nobody really has a perfect role model for exactly what you’re doing.”

Today’s tip comes from Kit Hewitt, who lives in Berkeley:

“I try to spend every memorial weekend on the Eel River in Northern California. I belong to a canoe club and we get a group of people together to camp along the river for two nights and we paddle for three days. The second night we camp at a place called Basin Creek. It’s one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been. A small stream comes out of a hilly area. It has carved out a series of rocks in the solid rock. five or six small pools – the largest being four feet deep and a bit larger than a kiddie pool. The highest waterfall is 15 feet. It’s an intimate place with room for only two people. It’s tough to climb where the mossy walls share cracks and nooks with small wildflowers and ferns. If the main river canyon is windy and rough, this little creek is fun and peaceful. icy water seems to chuckle with each a small drop. Even when the Eel River is low due to summer drought, Basin Creek has water to fill every little basin.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

As water restrictions wreak havoc in Southern California, tell us: What’s going on with your lawn? Are you trying to keep your grass green? Or has the drought caused you to pull your grass?

Let us know at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your name and place of residence.


A 53-year-old man and his black border collie, Saul, were hiking last week near California’s Tahoe National Forest when something went wrong.

The man fell 70 feet from a ridge, breaking his hip and several ribs. He called 911.

About seven hours later, search and rescue volunteers encountered Saul in the forest. The dog jumped up and down, circled and ran 20 feet in front of them, said Sgt. Dennis Haack of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Then Saul turned back to the volunteers, said Haack, as if to say: Follow me.

They followed Saul for about 200 yards, and there, lying in a bed of dirt and covered in camouflage tarp, was the injured man, in pain but grateful for his faithful pet and the volunteers.

“The real credit,” authorities said, was given to Saul, who has a white patch on his chest and sad, impatient eyes.