Good Policy Benefits All

Number four of the Rotary Club’s Four-Way Test – whether something is beneficial to all concerned – comes to mind when observing the ongoing dispute between a segment of the state’s oil and gas industry and the state’s county commissioners and municipal governments.

The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, made up of small oil and gas producers across Oklahoma, respectfully disagrees with the state’s big oil and gas producers over House Bill 2150, which would strip virtually all authority of local and city governments over the oil and gas industry.

In our view, that is a serious overreach. The most egregious hypocrisy of this bill is that it hides the true intent behind the “rights of mineral owners.”

If enacted, this bill will create a backlash over time, harming our relationship with our fellow citizens.

The state’s oil and gas industry has enjoyed unusual support from the state’s elected officials. That support should be honored as a covenant with Oklahoma to always measure our political initiatives with the best interest of the citizens of Oklahoma in mind. If that unwritten covenant is not honored, our industry will inevitably suffer in the long run.

The horizontal frackers and their trade association maintain they should be allowed to use the county rights of way to lay “temporary lines” to transport water from location to location regardless of the authority of the state’s county commissioners. A recent state Supreme Court decision reaffirms that the “Oklahoma Corporation Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas operations” – an assertion with which we largely agree.

There is no question that this capability saves oil and gas drillers a lot of money. However, increasing profits should never come at the expense of public safety.

There is also no question that this bill is in response to decades of overreach by municipalities that hit the industry with ridiculous fees and regulations. We know of no such overreach by county governments.

This issue begs for compromise.

We have offered a compromise, to no avail. So, without compromise, we oppose HB 2150.

It is in the long-term best interest of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry to live in harmony with our fellow Oklahomans and the officials they elect to watch over them. Running over them is a bad idea and at the end of the day an unprofitable one.

Mike Cantrell is president of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance.