To the Editor: Our future is at stake … Why me?

Why would a Ridgecrest councilmember spend six hours in travel and meeting time just to testify for six minutes before the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources? After all, last I checked we have no oil production within the city of Ridgecrest sphere of influence.

Fracking has become a controversial issue in this country as many environmental groups have latched on to the hysteria created from two movies produced by HBO called “Gasland,” which were riddled with falsehoods and proven intentional efforts to defraud viewers on the effects of fracking. Now with the current drought, the opportunity to tie groundwater contamination to the technology has energized many of these same groups. They insist on ignoring the strictest fracking regulations in the nation contained in SB 4 and signed by Gov. Brown last year.

In spite of over 100 years of safe implementation and improvements in the technology, DOG&GR is required to hold public hearings on the bill this year in an effort to take comments on existing regulations. Many are trying to pile on even more regulation and in the most egregious example of irresponsible policy, demand a statewide moratorium on fracking. This would have a devastating effect on Kern County and ultimately the entire state, since 29 percent of the entire Kern County budget is a result of oil production. I spoke in support of the existing tenets of SB 4 which still hamper our current oil production, but many industry trade groups have reluctantly accepted the bill as a compromise in order to protect the future of the industry.

We have a state that is addicted to new spending programs and services. When I was elected (1998), the budget was $58 billion. The recent budget exceeds $126 billion yet we continue to restrict, regulate and discourage investment from the very companies who could help support this insatiable appetite. As I said at the hearing, “You can’t have a strong public sector without a much stronger private sector!”

Kathryn Phillips of the Sierra Club summed up the strategy of fracking opponents clearly in a recent newspaper quote: “There WILL be a statewide moratorium, whether it comes this year, next year or the year after that. If we don’t get a moratorium, just the threat of a moratorium discourages investment. “

Sadly this is already happening in Kern County and California as we have lost jobs and investment. We are sitting on estimates of 15-plus billion barrels of oil in the central valley that could change our economic future for decades to come. At risk is an economic benefit to every community in the state and the energy security of this nation, yet multiple orchestrated groups have created a hysteria that delays and threatens this incredible opportunity.

So back to the original question — why did I go? Well, a decade ago the military contribution to the state economy exceeded $85 billion; today it barely touches $50 billion. While those of us directly affected fought and did everything in our power to spread this message, many ignored and even encouraged base closures and mission reductions asuuming they were unaffected. A good elected leader must always be aware of how we are all so often connected. We need to help fight each other’s battles understanding they may truly be ours. Sadly, too many so-called leaders never seem to realize this until it’s too late.

Marshall “Chip” Holloway

Story First Published: 2014-07-30