Steve Brandau introduced a resolution of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to encourage more domestic oil production. Photo by Frank Lopez

published on March 22, 2022 - 4:54 PM
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County elected officials and economic leaders held a press conference Tuesday to call for an increase in domestic oil production.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors, along with representatives from the Fresno County Farm Bureau, local trade and skilled labor associations and the California Truckers Association, held a press conference in Downtown Fresno’s Courthouse Park urging federal and state legislators to increase petroleum production in the region.

Speaking along with the county supervisors were Fresno County Farm Bureau President Daniel Hartwig and Building and Construction Trades Council of Fresno Council Executive Secretary Chuck Riojas.

District 2 Supervisor Steve Brandau, who sponsored a resolution calling for increased production, said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent boycotts of Russia’s oil highlight the need for the U.S. to produce more domestic oil.

“There has been some talk of going elsewhere—like to Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In my opinion, some of those actors are not much better than Russian actors. So why not produce that oil at home and refine that oil at home? We know we have the capability,” Brandau said.

Co-sponsoring the resolution, District 5 Supervisor Nathan Magsig said that aside from fuel, petroleum is the main component in many items such as clothing and asphalt. It is essential to the agriculture industry.

Magsig said that higher gas prices are affecting those in disadvantaged and rural communities that have to drop their children off at school and drive long distances for work.

Magsig said that in 1986, almost 100% of the oil used in California was produced in the U.S. Today, he said that figure stands at about 42%.

He said that producing more oil in California and the U.S. would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“When we need to ship oil from other countries to California, that oil has to come from ships, and those ships pollute. If we make that oil here domestically, that shipping cost and shipping pollution is not released,” Magsig said.

According to a December 2021 Petroleum Watch report from the California Energy Commission, last year Fresno County produced more than 5 million barrels of oil.

Paul Sihota is president of Smartway Express, a trucking company in Fresno. He also serves on the Fresno County Transportation Authority. He said this call for more domestic oil production is a bipartisan need.

“There is a lot of ag that depends on us. Fuel prices have gone out of sight. We have resources in our own back yard. Oil fields that are sitting idle and are not being able to be put to work. We need the governor and his office to get the oil permits up and running,” Sihota said.

While the Fresno County Supervisors’ call to Gov. Newsom and President Biden is echoed across the political aisle, oil permitting is still active.

According to federal data from the Bureau of Land Management, the Biden administration approved 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in the first year of his presidency, outpacing the Trump’s administration’s first year total of 2,658.

In California, the Biden administration approved 187 drilling permits, more than double the 71 drilling permits approved in the state by the Trump administration.

According to the Newsom Well Watch — an interactive online map maintained by Consumer Watchdog and Fracktracker that tracks the number of oil and gas wells permitted in the state —Newsom has approved 10,212 permits since 2019.

There were a total of 2,061 total permits approved — and 542 new well permits approved in 2021 by Newsom.

In April of last year, Newsom announced he would end the issuance of new fracking permits by 2024.

District 5 Supervisor Buddy Mendes, who is also a member of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said that the oil made in the U.S. is produced more safely and cleanly than anywhere else in the world due to U.S. regulations.

“Do you want to get oil overseas that has no regulations on it at all when it’s produced and refined, or do you want it produced in the most safe environment there is?” Mendes said.

Mendes said that more oil production in Fresno County — and more oil production in general — does not introduce particulate matter into the air.

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of emissions of volatile organic compounds — a group of chemicals that contribute to smog.

According to report from Stanford University released in October 2021, in a 14-year analysis of air quality across California, researchers observed high levels of air pollutants within 2.5 miles of oil and gas wells, increasing the risk of adverse health outcomes, including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

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