Oil price drop leads to financial woes for Kern County

By Anthony York | Posted January 29, 2015

Cheap oil is a boon for California consumers. We are a state of freeways and suburbs, with some of the longest commute times in the nation. Low prices at the pump help help Californians’ pocketbooks.

But for every bit of good economic news, it seems there’s always some group or region that takes a hit.

In this case, it’s Kern County, which has been sent into a financial tailspin by the drop in oil prices. The county is anticipating a budget shortfall of as much as $61 million in a county with an overall budget of about $2.6 billion.

The price drop also has local officials bracing for higher unemployment and more demand for county services. In Bakersfield, an estimated 12,000 people word directly in oil and gas extraction. An estimated 7% of all jobs in the region are petroleum-related.

That’s bad news for a county whose unemployment rate has been improving over the last year, but at 9.9% is still higher than the state average of 7.3%

As the LA Times’ Tiffany Hsu reports:

In December, Canadian oil field services firm Ensign Energy Services notified California authorities that it planned to lay off as many as 700 workers in the state.

Drilling projects are being delayed or canceled. Only 14 drilling rigs are active on land in California, down from 48 in June, according to oil field services company Baker Hughes in Houston. So far this year, the state Department of Conservation has received 147 notices from oil and gas companies intending to engage in new drilling, down from 225 during the same period in 2014.

On Tuesday, supervisors in Kern County declared a fiscal emergency, citing lower property tax revenue from oil properties.

You can read the entire LA Times story here.

Anthony York
Anthony York has covered California politics for close to 20 years. Before launching the Grizzly Bear Project in 2015, he covered Gov. Jerry Brown's administration for the Los Angeles Times. He is the former editor of Capitol Weekly, a former Associate Editor of the California Journal and of Salon.com, where he also served as the Web site's Washington D.C. correspondent. He tweets at @anthonyyork49

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