State's Environmental Regulation Defined as a Snafu
Wolfe, Lou Anne, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Oklahoma has an environmental regulation system that can only be defined as a snafu _ "systems normal all fouled up" _ a state legislative task force was told Wednesday.
Environmental consultant Robert Hall and others described to the Environmental Task Force their experiences in working with some of the eight state agencies that have environmental regulation responsibilities.
The task force, created by legislation last session, is co-chaired by state Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, and Rep. Sid Hudson, D-Lawton. Members include state lawmakers, industry representatives and representatives of some environmental groups.
Hall, who made the snafu comment, said regulation needs to be simplified, but he was not sure if consolidation of environmental functions was the answer. He gave examples of duplication of efforts by some agencies, and said Oklahoma needs a structure of environmental enforcement that streamlines the process. What the state needs less of are kingdom building in agencies, bickering, and environmental standards that change according to the agency dealt with, Hall said.
Regulations are becoming more uniform all the time, and the current main concern of companies is how the regulations are administered, he said.
"From the industry's perception, firm, fair treatment is a protection for them" because the business can rest assured it is in compliance with environmental laws, he said. Companies need to know the rules of the game.
Jerry Black, a consultant and conservationist from Norman, said industries who do business in Oklahoma don't realize the state has different agencies in charge of environmental regulations. As a result, the companies tend to get overwhelmed and end up hiring consultants like himself, Black said.
Moreover, some agencies are stricter than others, and businesses want equal treatment, he said.
Dick Greenley, a geologist who owns Pumps of Oklahoma, said some kind of centralization of authority is needed to eliminate power struggles among the agencies.
Greenley also said Oklahoma has adequate laws on the books, but they just need to be enforced.
Environmental regulation in Oklahoma is handled by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Conservation Commission, Department of Agriculture, Department of Mines, Water Resources Board, Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Department of Health and Pollution Control Coordinating Board.
As far as an organization for promoting and exploiting oil and gas properties, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the best in the country, bar none, Greenley said.
"This committee needs to consider that as one of our good livelihoods and good assets in the state, and keep it intact," he said. "By the same token, there are some bad apples in the oil and gas business." Greenley said the oil and gas industry is a big portion of the state economy.
"Let's not create any more burdens, but let's let the oil and gas industry do the right thing," he said.
Greenley, whose company sells pumping systems and remediation to environmental groups, said there seems to be a power struggle between the corporation commission and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board concerning underground petroleum storage tank leaks. …