Fracking Fight: Mineral Owners Representative, New York Attorney Square off at Forum in Norman

By Terry-Cobo, Sarah | THE JOURNAL RECORD, August 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Fracking Fight: Mineral Owners Representative, New York Attorney Square off at Forum in Norman


Terry-Cobo, Sarah, THE JOURNAL RECORD


NORMAN - Terry Stowers wasn't expecting a fight when he attended a public forum on fracking Monday. Yet a New York attorney accused him of misleading the public about local control of drilling regulations. The mere mention of a municipal ban on fracking is upsetting because it threatens hundreds of Stowers' clients across the state.

Banning fracking in Oklahoma is effectively banning drilling, because the vast majority of wells drilled are fracked, Stowers said. The executive director of the Coalition of Oklahoma Surface and Mineral Owners had a warning for those who might consider banning hydraulic fracturing in Norman city limits. He isn't threatening to sue those who try to stop fracking through municipal ordinance changes, he said, he will do it.

"It's not a threat, it's a promise," he said. "Mineral owners have a valuable property right, and they are not going to stand by and have that property right trampled on."

Stowers went toe-to-toe in a war of words with David Slottje, a New York attorney who spoke at Monday's forum at the city's public library. Slottje and his wife are the driving force behind nearly 200 municipal bans on fracking in New York.

Stowers said a fracking ban in one city would have a domino effect around the state and has potentially devastating economic consequences.

To be sure, some Oklahoma cities banned drilling oil and gas wells within city limits decades ago. Tulsa was the first to enact a ban in the 1920s. Chickasha banned drilling in city limits in the 1984. However, Stowers said if one city enacted a fracking ban in Oklahoma, more could follow, creating a ripple effect through the state's economy.

Slottje said the danger is in the drilling process. He is concerned with the chemicals used, as well as the large amount of water used in drilling and fracking. He and his wife, Helen, also an attorney, founded the Community Environmental Defense Council Inc. in 2009. The husband-and-wife legal team developed the first model for New York communities to prohibit drilling and oil waste disposal at a local level.

He came to Oklahoma to tell concerned residents about how to stop fossil fuel extraction within cities. Residents can use restrictive municipal ordinances to effectively ban drilling or fracking in cities. However, he wasn't providing legal advice, because he isn't admitted to practice law in Oklahoma, Slottje said multiple times throughout the forum. …

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