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Bill to prohibit municipal drilling ordinances advances in Oklahoma House
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Bill to prohibit municipal drilling ordinances advances in Oklahoma House

A foe asks how the bill squares with the GOP philosophy on local government.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation that would ban local governments from prohibiting oil and gas drilling in their corporate limits advanced from committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 2178, by Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, is one of several targeting local ordinances on drilling. It is not clear how the measure, as currently written, would affect Tulsa’s drilling ordinance, which was adopted in 1906 — a year before statehood — and revised in 2010.

According to House staff, local ordinances would remain in effect unless successfully challenged as “unreasonable” in court or overturned by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The legislation is aimed at heading off ordinances such as ones passed by towns and cities in other states and being considered by at least one Oklahoma municipality, Stillwater.

“The energy industry is one of the largest employers in Oklahoma and a crucial part of our economy,” Hickman said in a news release. “Oklahoma is the fourth fastest growing economy in the nation and is the place to be for developing new technology in energy. This legislation ensures we remain on the cutting edge of technology to enhance opportunities to develop energy production in Oklahoma.”

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, remarked sarcastically on the number of oil and gas lobbyists in the committee room and asked Hickman how HB 2178 squares with Republican philosophy on local government.

Hickman said the bill would reserve authority on related issues such as setbacks, noise, odor and road use to local governments. He said sustaining the oil and gas industry is in the best interest of the state.

The bill says local governments “may enact reasonable ordinances, rules, and regulations concerning road use, traffic, noise, and odors incidental to oil and gas operations … provided such ordinances, rules, and regulations are not inconsistent with any regulation established by … the Oklahoma Statutes or the Corporation Commission.”

Local governments would be allowed to “establish setbacks and fencing requirements for oil and gas well site locations … but may not otherwise regulate, prohibit, or ban any oil and gas operations, including oil and gas exploration, drilling, fracture stimulation, completion, production, maintenance, plugging and abandonment, produced water disposal, or secondary recovery operations. Such operations shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction and regulation of the Corporation Commission.”

The bill also would repeal the section of state law that authorizes local ordinances and regulations related to drilling and well spacing.

The bill was approved by the House Environmental Law Committee by a 6-1 vote, with Williams casting the only dissenting vote. The measure is now eligible for a vote by the full House.

A companion Senate bill by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, has not yet been heard in committee.

Also Tuesday, House committees advanced bills reserving revenue from the sale or lease of the former Southern Oklahoma Resource Center for programs for the developmentally handicapped; restricting adult entertainment enterprises in rural areas; and prohibiting local governments from restricting “preaching in public places.”

HB 1752, by Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, would allow individual businesses to give hiring preference to veterans.

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

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