I chuckled when I saw protesters' signs at the Palmer Chamber meeting on August 27th that read "Recall Vic and Scott" and "Gays against shallow gas drilling." Anti-development forces in the Valley, not property owners with genuine concerns, are spreading misinformation about pollution and property rights. They're crying "Wolf" when in fact there is no wolf to be seen.
Most no-growth liberals who wish to lock up our resources and make the state one big park are the same ones demanding taxpayer-subsidized government programs. They conveniently ignore the fact that money to fund them must come from an economy that creates wealth. Government is not an engine of creation. It is the exact opposite. As George Washington put it, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master."
Natural resource development is the best way to achieve a potent, middle-class society. Yet these people are trying their best to stifle efforts at accessing our resources in the State and Valley. You can't have it both ways. To fund essential government programs, you need a robust economy that generates the money to pay for them.
House Bill 69 has many safeguards. The Department of Natural Resources will not allow a company to drill for gas next to a house or school. And they will not permit activities that disrupt one's property, like cutting down large numbers of trees, plowing wide swaths of ground or polluting water wells. Further, there'll be plenty of opportunity for public input before drilling permits are issued, with the right to appeal. We absolutely must ensure private property owners' rights aren't violated with future exploration. That's a legitimate concern. And if time proves flaws exist in current law, I will support fixing them.
I'm a strong advocate of private property rights and have a record to back it up. For years I've endorsed "regulatory takings" legislation to compensate private property owners from government restrictions. I also support a change in state law that grants land owners subsurface rights, so they can share in the wealth from oil, gas and mineral extraction. That's how it's done in Lower 48 states, with good results.
Evergreen Resources, currently drilling in the Valley, is a very responsible company with a proven track record of excellence. I've personally witnessed their work, and it's clear there's little effect on the environment. They shouldn't be run out of town by a vocal, anti-development minority bent on spreading unsubstantiated rumors. Their fear mongering must be challenged, because the more hysteria they spread, the more people will believe they're credible.
Local Valley anti-development Democrats (excuse me, "Progressives") like my opponent from last year, are circling like vultures, convinced they have an opportunity to make political hay of this media-stirred controversy. They're trying to take advantage of good, honest people with valid concerns, using them like pawns. Instead of working with the industry, Evergreen and Valley Legislators, they're trying to twist the issue into political advantage. These transparent politician wannabee's are using this as a wedge with voters, hoping it will resonate and give their future candidacies a desperately needed boost.
It's time to stop this nonsense and look objectively at the matter. We need to responsibly develop our natural resources to build an economic base that provides good jobs for Valley residents. Otherwise, we'll continue to suffer the same fate of low paying jobs, no real industry and a low standard of living for many.
There's no magical solution to creating wealth, and money must come from somewhere other than fleecing the taxpayer. As Chairman of the Legislature's Oil & Gas Committee, I support an aggressive approach to developing oil and gas, without letting obstructionists and political opportunists stand in the way.
We CAN have reasonable development, while making sure private property rights are protected as our State Constitution guarantees. It is my fervent intent that this be accomplished.
# # #
Vic Kohring is a fifth term Republican, representing Wasilla in the Alaska State Legislature and is Chairman of the Special Committee on Oil & Gas.