Hydraulic fracturing may be controversial in California, but it’s not at all new. Fracking, has been happening for more than 40 years in Kern County, north of Los Angeles. There are parts of Kern County that are covered, as far as the eye can see, with oil wells.
The town of Taft is at the heart of Kern County’s oil industry. “There’s lots of oil here,” said Taft Mayor Pro Tem (temporary mayor) Orchel Krier, “and the old saying is ‘if you smell the oil, that means money.’”
But, Krier said, new state regulations aimed at slowing down fracking are bringing uncertainty to oil exploration — and could discourage oil companies from investing.
“California is so tough on the oil industry it’s easier to go out of state,” he said.
Enthusiasm for oil infuses most of the county’s elected officials.
Shannon Grove, represents the area in the State Assembly, “you know, you have 15 people on a day shift, and 15 people on a night shift for a drilling rig,” she said. “But aside from that, just to set up that drilling rig, you have an engineering crew, you have a site crew, an excavation crew, you’ve got a gravel crew. You’ve got truck drivers that haul that gravel to the site. You’ve safety contractors that supply safety goods to these contractors. There’s training consultants. You know it’s a huge impact.”
The Republican legislator has no patience for environmental critics who say fracking is too risky and needs to be reigned in. “The fracking we’re using is on old wells. I mean they’re all mature wells,” she said. “This field has been operating on the Kern River for almost a hundred years. And it’s, there’s no river contamination. And the bottom line is it’s safe. And technology even makes it safer every day.”
Grove and others are hoping that new technology around fracking will be the key to unlocking additional oil reserves in the massive underground rock formation known as the Monterey Shale.
It wasn’t hard to find people with ties to the oil industry here. Bill Kostner works for a Bakersfield company that makes valves for Chevron. His opinion on fracking is simple, “whatever an oil company needs to do to get oil out of the ground, I’m a proponent of. If it has to come out of the ground through fracking, so be it.”
(Source: KQED News)