Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Environmental Pact Criticized

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Environmental Pact Criticized

Article excerpt

Some oil and gas producers are calling for more public input before a first-of-its-kind environmental agreement approved by Gov. Brad Henry and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation takes effect.

The agreement calls for the tribe to adopt and enforce the state of Oklahoma's environmental standards and substantive rules on Citizen Potawatomi trust lands in a cooperative and transparent manner that involves state agencies and the tribe's department of environmental protection.

It also acknowledges that the tribe intends to apply to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for treatment-in-the-same-manner-as- a-state eligibility and approval of the nation's environmental regulatory programs under federal environmental statutes.

Before it is enforced, the agreement must be approved by the Legislature's joint committee on state-tribal relations, which canceled a meeting Thursday to address the compact.

While it took more than three years to reach an agreement, Mike Terry, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said more debate and the full attention of the Legislature is needed.

"We appreciate the fact that the tribe is making an effort to supply their members with good drinking water, but any agreement that would empower anyone other than the state of Oklahoma to regulate surface or groundwater has far-reaching implications," Terry said.

Any changes in the authority that the state has given to state agencies must be taken very seriously and considered by both the executive branch and the full Legislature, Terry said Friday.

While acknowledging that it is the first of its kind, Oklahoma state Treasurer Scott Meacham said the document is a "pretty simple agreement" that will follow state regulatory environmental standards and substantive rules on the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's 8,500 acres of trust lands, most of which are in Potawatomi County.

"It doesn't deal with them trying to regulate Oklahoma businesses," Meacham said. "That's not the motivation."

Because Oklahoma's oil and gas industry is primarily regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Terry said the agreement might set a dangerous precedent for the industry.

"The possibility of adding 39 tribes to the regulatory mix would increase the regulatory burden to extreme proportions," Terry said, "therefore hampering drilling and production operations already in the state and creating a disincentive on out-of-state businesses looking to do business here."

John Barrett, longtime chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, called the agreement "a happy medium" for all sides, including the oil and gas industry.

In addition to the governor and Barrett, agency heads of the Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Water Resources Board have signed the compact.

Barrett said it could lay a foundation for ending the confusion pertaining to environmental regulation that has left the states, tribes and industry in somewhat of an environmental regulation limbo since U. …

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