Some steps toward compromise Tuesday as the area's two biggest industries, oil and agriculture, try to co-exist on the same land. Many farmers object to oil companies placing wells on farm fields and drilling with no notice.
Initially growers suggested oil companies get a conditional use permit for every farmland well. But further reflection on the cost and regulation they said has made them change their minds.
"For over 55 years agriculture and oil have coexisted without additional local regulation for either on basic regulations," said Lorelei Oviatt, Director of Planning and Community Development Department who's putting together a compromise to address growers concerns.
Oil wells in farm fields are a common sight in Kern County. That's because while farmers have the right to the land, oil companies have the right to the minerals below, a fact that was irking farmers.
"We bought and paid for this property been here for three generations and it's an important part of Kern County," said Keith Gardiner, a Kern County Almond Farmer.
Farmers asked the County Board of Supervisors last month to step in and regulate these wells possibly with permits. Drillers balked at that idea but Tuesday at a County Supervisors meeting they showed signs of compromise. This was because Monday all the parties met to talk things out according to Oviatt.
"We had a very productive meeting of all the parties but it wasn't final," said Oviatt.
In that meeting Monday they decided permits would over-regulate. Instead they decided to create a process where oil companies tell farmers when they plan to drill and if there is a problem farmers can file a complaint with the County Board of Supervisors.
"We don't want a mechanism that requires more regulation to the oil interest and the mineral interest," said Larry Moxley, spokesperson for the Committee to Protect Farmland and Clean Water. "We just want a mechanism that gets us an agreement on all our issues heard and everyone equitably treated."
The Committee to Protect Farmland and Clean Water was the group that initially expressed anger about current drilling practices.
"We are committed to this topic and a resolution that meets the interests of both parties," said Nick Ortiz of Western States Petroleum Association.
This proposal was continued to January but supervisors emphasized the need to pass something quickly to give our local government authority.
"Our locally designed solutions are always better than the one-size fits all solution you are going to get from Sacramento," said Zack Scrivner, 2nd District Supervisor in Kern County.
While all supervisors agreed on this tentative plan Tuesday, three new supervisors take office next month. The next meeting is scheduled January 22.