Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cities Fight Bill on Oil and Gas Ordinances

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cities Fight Bill on Oil and Gas Ordinances

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Several Oklahoma mayors are resisting a bill that would prevent local ordinances on oil and gas operations.

State Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, filed House Bill 1395, which would prohibit local governments from banning drilling or wastewater disposal operations.

Yet mayors from Tulsa, Norman and Chickasha said they opposed the bill because it would remove local control. In addition, Norman City Attorney Jeff Bryant said there is no jurisprudence to support the bill.

The bill would prohibit municipalities, counties or other governmental agencies from enacting ordinances or rules that effectively ban drilling, completions, hydraulic fracturing or oil and gas well operations or wastewater disposal inside city limits without the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's approval. The bill also would allow the OCC to void any law that is not reasonable. However, the bill does not define reasonable.

The bill is one of seven aimed at preventing municipal drilling bans. Bryant said he was concerned the bill did not define what ordinances would be reasonable. Typically, there is broad discretion for city councils to debate what is reasonable and vote.

"Normally under Oklahoma jurisprudence, there is deference given to those bodies to make those choices," Bryant said. "I'm not sure if this standard of 'reasonable' is consistent with prior state law."

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he views the issue from both the perspective as the city's elected leader and as an oil and gas operator. The president of Keener Oil & Gas Co. said he doesn't like the fact that state legislators complain about congressional overreach into state matters, yet Murdock proposed a bill that would similarly limit local control of an industry.

There isn't much activity within Tulsa's city limits, Bartlett said. As a result there hasn't been much interest in drilling in town, but he said he would consider it on a case-by-case basis.

"I don't mind if drilling for oil and gas is allowed in city limits of Tulsa, if it is our decision to be made and not someone else's, especially if it is someone who doesn't live in the city," Bartlett said. …

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