Proposal would convert bases into oil refineries

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A state representative from Pennsylvania is trying to turn BRAC-list military bases into oil refineries.

Though Cannon Air Force Base may be an ideal spot for a refinery according to his criteria, he never suggested oil come specifically to Cannon, said Derek Karchner, communication director for Rep. Joe Pitts, R.-Pa.

“We haven’t been using specific names, just throwing out a handful of bases that are on the BRAC list that would be good sites,” Karchner said.

Pitts, a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee member, believes the refinery initiative could ease recent gas pump burdens.

“Our ability to refine oil and supply gas to consumers has not kept pace with demand for gasoline,” Pitts reported on his Web site.

“No matter how much additional crude oil is made available, we simply do not have the capacity to refine it, but experts say just one new refinery would make a significant dent in gas prices here at home.”

Pitts said three bases shuttered by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission should be turned into oil refineries in a provision attached to a bill that streamlines refinery procedures in order to encourage industry growth, Karchner said.

That bill was approved by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, and now moves on to the House and Senate for vote.

Karchner said there is a lot of support in the House for the bill. However, New Mexico state representatives said a Cannon oil refinery isn’t a viable option.

“While there is a definite need for more American oil refineries, this idea just isn’t consistent with what we’re trying to do with Cannon Air Force Base,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M. 

“The base is not closed, and we’re going to try to keep it that way.

“We are making significant progress in our efforts to find a new mission for Cannon, starting with ensuring that the current F-16 (fighter planes) will stay in place and prompting Secretary Rumsfeld and the Pentagon to work seriously on finding a new mission for our base,” Domenici said.

The delegation’s “number one goal is to find a new mission for Cannon,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D.-N.M.

“It may well make sense to turn some bases that are being closed through the BRAC process into oil refineries,” Bingaman said. “Cannon, however, remains open. 

“Our number one goal is to find a new military mission for Cannon to ensure that it will continue to serve our country as it has for so many years.”

Base advocate Randy Harris said, although Clovis is within 100 miles of oil fields, and an oil refinery at Cannon would “be possible,” the idea does not align with Cannon’s military future.