California State Agencies Investigate Oil Well Leaks in Bakersfield


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) – It’s been a week since 23ABC brought you for the first time the discoveries of methane gas leaking at explosive levels from unused oil wells near a Bakersfield community. The day after the story broke, the state alerted residents to the leaks and launched community forums to address public health concerns.

Poles are used as indicators of the location of wells and in a patch of land next to emergent communities they are pretty much everywhere. On Wednesday, inspectors from various state agencies came to Bakersfield to get an updated reading of methane levels.

Cesar Aguirre, the community advocate who first rang the bell on this issue, now says they are moving to review wells on the north side of nearby properties.

“The ones closest to the houses are thankfully at a very minimal to unreadable level, so we’re very comfortable making sure they don’t leak again”

Aguirre joined state agency inspectors California Division of Geological Energy Management (CalGEM) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Wednesday morning to watch these readings. To better understand exactly what they were doing, 23ABC spoke with Todd Sax, the head of the law enforcement division at CARB.

“Methane coming out of wells can also be associated with other gases that come out in lower concentrations, some of which contribute to smog formation and some of which can also be toxic.”

Sax explains that aside from an environmental concern for greenhouse gases, some additional gases can be considered chronic carcinogens.

“We don’t want wells leaking close to where people live. Community members expect them to be unaffected by these industrial sources even if they are close to home. them, so we’re trying to figure that out.”

Although the focus is on the Morning Star community at this time, there are unused oil wells throughout Kern County. That’s why CalGEM has compiled this data and created an interactive online map where you can check if there is one near you.


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