July 27, 2018 -- Assisted by City Attorney Shannon Chaffin of Aleshire & Wynder, the City of Arvin passed an ordinance that will require new oil and gas operations to be more protective of health and safety in the City. The code passed with a unique coalition of support, including from the CA State Attorney General.
The City of Arvin is located on an oil field in a primarily agricultural community just south of Bakersfield. The City’s oil and gas code was last updated over 50 years ago in 1965. Currently there are 10 to 12 active oil wells operating in the City. The community is impacted by serious air quality problems from oil and gas activities. In 2014, eight families were displaced from their homes due to a toxic gas leak from an underground pipeline. Some homes were re-occupied by concerned residents with no other options; other homes still stand empty. Meanwhile, pump jacks operated next to homes day and night, pumping oil mixed with water to a nearby tank. Despite multiple complaints to state agencies of odors and noise, residents were told that there was nothing that could be done under current regulations.
The City Council knew something had to be done. Working closely with the City Council and meeting with interested community, environmental, and petroleum industry groups, our attorneys stepped in to update the code to address where state and federal regulations were insufficient. The code will provide for setbacks to protect homes, parks, and hospitals from the impacts of petroleum operations including noise, odor, and glare. It provides for a process of ensuring safe redevelopment of land, and promotes safer locations for facilities. Finally, it recognizes the vested rights of operators, and provides certainty for operations in the community on a go-forward basis.
After several standing-room-only meetings and hours of public comment, the City Council passed the updated code at its meeting on July 17, 2018. After the vote to pass the code, supporters in the audience broke out in applause and started to celebrate. “This is why I love what I do,” said City Attorney Shannon Chaffin. “We make a difference in our cities.”