A few random things that caught my attention this week.


First, the puppies.

Yes, it's horrible that someone left a box of 15 newborn pups outside the SPCA to suffer through a freezing night.

It's hard to control the urge to track that person down and make them suffer the same fate, or worse.

But let's take a step back, think a minute and find a constructive response to this problem.

Because it's not a one-time thing.

The same thing happened last winter at the then county shelter on Mount Vernon Avenue and it happened with some regularity this summer behind Petco on Rosedale where a non-profit was running a puppy adoption program.

Clearly, we have too many animals breeding way too many more animals.

Had the person (stupid, heartless or just desperate) who dropped off the puppies at the SPCA had access to affordable spay/neuter resources, you likely would not be reading this column right now. And Facebook would not have lit up with revenge fantasies. (My favorite: "Whoever did it should be dropped off in Antarctica butt naked!")

I keep saying it, but it continues to need repeating: We must enact a full-on, coordinated spay/neuter effort.

There are groups out there attacking this issue through a variety of measures (see box for more information).

We need to do more, obviously.

But in the meantime, I urge all those who are heartsick and angry over the puppy dumping to channel that energy into helping the groups that are working toward a solution.

Money, time, blankets, however you can pitch in, please do so.


Like many of you out there, I follow the news on high-speed rail with a taxpayer's general concern.

Will it ever be built? Is it worth all the expense?

But as one of the schmoes whose house is smack in the middle of the bullet train's path I find myself asking different questions as I read about the latest twists and turns.

"Should I buy new energy efficient windows or not?"

I'd like to cut my power bills but it doesn't make sense to lay out thousands of dollars if I'll only be in that house another few years.

I know, there are much bigger issues involved, whole communities affected, bazillions of tax dollars for construction and then operation, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I wanna know about my windows!

So, a judge declined to allow the High Speed Rail Authority to sell state construction bonds without a new funding plan and showing it had all the necessary environmental clearances for the first 300 miles of the line.

Aha! I thought. New windows, here I come.

But rail authority officials shrugged off the ruling and voted last week to resubmit their request to sell the bonds, saying all the judge really wanted was some more info.

Bleh. No windows.

Then the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected a request from the rail authority to exempt a segment of the rail line from a lengthy review.


Authority officials again said the denial wasn't a blow to the project, major or otherwise.

In fact, they said they're on pace with engineering, hiring and expect to break ground early next year using some of the federal money the state got from the Obama administration.

Uh...no windows?

I'd have better luck divining answers from the bottom of my teacup.


And finally, in fracking news, I said a couple of months ago that unsubstantiated fracking fears would drive regulation -- not actual science -- and I was right.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted last week to end an exemption that allowed oil companies to dispose of drilling fluids (the mud and water that comes up with the oil) in unlined sumps.

This is totally different from "fracking fluids," which are a combination of water, sand and chemicals forced downhole at high pressure to fracture (frack) rock deep underground so oil can more easily migrate to the bore hole.

Fracking fluids are not allowed to be dumped in unlined sumps. Never have been.

But last year Vintage Production, an Occidental Petroleum company, got caught dumping frack fluids in an unlined sump. Vintage was fined $60,000.

Such is the frenzy over fracking, though, that Vintage's bad behavior ignited a similar frenzy over drilling mud and hence the Water Quality Control board's decision last week.

This strikes me as saying that since a fatal car wreck was caused by someone going 100 miles over the speed limit, we should lower the speed limit.

Oil companies in Kern have been putting drilling mud into unlined sumps for more than a generation with extremely few noted problems.

Typically, that's because drilling occurs in the western part of the county which doesn't have groundwater or what groundwater there is "would choke a buzzard," as a friend recently described the brackish nature of that water.

In other areas, such as near the Kern River, oil companies know to be more cautious, said Les Clark, spokesman for the Independent Oil Producers Agency.

He's hoping to work with the Water Quality Control Board to get some guidelines about what areas are considered high and low risk and how to proceed from there.

"But I'm pretty frustrated," Clark said.

No kidding. Especially since the board only thought to do an analysis of whether drilling mud presents a real threat after voting to end the sump exemption.

"We have no problem with cooperative environmental management," Clark said of finding safer ways for the oil industry to do its job.

I think safety measures are needed as well. Oil is, after all, a dirty, dangerous business.

It would be good if those measures were based on actual evidence rather than fear, however.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

Lois Henry appears on "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN. LOIS HENRY ONLINE

Read archived columns by Lois Henry at Bakersfield.com/henry