By Erin Fitzgerald, for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
On July 17, 2018, the Arvin City Council voted unanimously to approve an update to their city’s oil and gas ordinance “to protect the health, safety, public welfare, physical environment and natural resources of the City of Arvin, and to prevent nuisances, by the reasonable regulation of certain petroleum operations.” These changes serve as a complete update to the ordinance, which hasn’t happened since 1965, even though Arvin’s population has quadrupled in size.This historic victory happened in spite of aggressive pushback from the oil & gas industry, concerned about the precedent this ordinance would set.
“It was a five year campaign and we used every strategy we knew: community organizing, legal advocacy, coalition building, communications and 501c4 electoral,” said Caroline Farrell, Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE). “For a small city in Kern County, the 3rd largest oil producing county in the country, to stand up and regulate the industry without the industry’s blessing was a real threat to them. The community turned out, spoke up and the decision-makers were brave enough to challenge the industry’s rhetoric with facts.”
This victory is a turning point for communities, who want to protect their health from the negative impacts of deregulated oil and gas industry activity in their towns. What makes this victory particularly
special is the extraordinary roles that young advocates and public servants played in passing these
measures. With the voting councilmembers all under the age of 30, it demonstrated that the vital role
that young people are playing in helping to shape their futures in sustainable and environmentally
sound ways. CRPE youth leaders, many of whom are high school students, also played a key role by
canvassing local neighborhoods, attending hearings, and sharing information about the importance of
the updated ordinance.
“The political atmosphere at a national level is so demoralizing for our communities, which is why it is so important to celebrate this success. We can have hope in the face of deep challenges. Arvin community members were able to exert their political power, and win. While 300 foot buffer zones are not big enough, they are very significant for Kern County. It will take local victories like this one to move us away from extractive oil & gas practices” said Juan Flores, Community Organizer at CRPE.
CRPE is excited to work on a Just Transition towards renewable energy with Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola.
CRPE is a national environmental justice organization providing legal, organizing, and technical
assistance to grassroots groups in low-income communities and communities of color. Follow us on
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