By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Throughout its history, the Sierra Club has been a passionate advocate for sound environmental policy at the local, state, and federal levels.
Each year, the Oklahoma Chapter determines its legislative priorities, identifying proposals beneficial to the environment and those with potential adverse impacts.
The Chapter works with elected officials to introduce, pass, or block legislation, while collaborating with other interest groups to achieve its goals.
On Tuesday, April 8, the Oklahoma Sierra Club will hold its annual Lobby Day at the State Capitol. Sierra Club has the only environmental lobbyist at the Capitol. They are asking all supporters of the environment to participate.
Before participants begin visiting legislators, there will be a briefing session in Room 412A, from 8:30 – 9 a.m. with refreshments provided.
The session will prepare participants with information on the bills that are priorities to the organization. Handouts will be available as well as speakers to discuss the bills.
At 10:30 a.m. the group will hold a press conference in the 4th floor Capitol Press Room.
David Ocamb, Oklahoma Sierra Club executive director said, “It is vital our members and supporters join us this Lobby Day to fight to protect the progress we’ve made in Oklahoma to advance clean, renewable, Oklahoma energy.”
Ocamb contends that renewable energy is the only realistic way Oklahoma can move beyond coal and other polluting fossil fuels.
“Oklahoma is blessed to have an amazing wind resource,” he said. “Due to strong bipartisan support, our state has moved up to sixth in the country in wind production, leading to more good jobs in Oklahoma.
“As the legislature resumes from spring break, a number of issues with a significant environmental impact remain very much in discussion. In the Senate two bills emerged out of committee that threatened Oklahoma’s wind industry.
“One of these bills failed to leave the Senate and the other was amended on the Senate floor. However, the amendment was just a ploy and the bill remains dangerous.”
Senate Bill 1440, authored by Sen. President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, places a moratorium on wind projects east of I-35 that are in locations rated below fair.
“The problem is they intentionally chose a map from many years ago that was based on estimates and not any actual measured wind speeds,” Ocamb said. “One area rated below fair on this map has been tested with an anemometer and in reality has an exceptional wind resource and is currently being developed by a wind company.”
Ocamb’s group is watching House Joint Resolution 1006, the Right to Farm amendment authored by State Rep. Scott Biggs. R-Chickasha, which now moves to the Senate.
“If it were to pass, it would guarantee a constitutional right to ‘modern farming practices’ without defining what they are,” Ocamb said. “These would include cloning, genetic modifications, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), and could threaten water and soil conservation efforts.”
Ocamb feels oil and gas companies should not be given a special handout from the state through the gross production tax credit.
A plan authored by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City would set the gross production tax rate at 2 – 6 percent, depending on the number of Oklahomans each company employs.
“Currently for the first 48 months after drilling a horizontal well oil and gas companies pay a 1 percent tax instead of the usual 7 percent tax rate,” said Ocamb. “This was enacted back when horizontal wells were very rare and not the norm as they are today.
“This tax credit has become extremely expensive for our state and is absolutely unnecessary since even without the credit our taxes are comparable to all other producing states.”
The Sierra Club supports legislation that will reduce unnecessary and burdensome local regulations on farmer’s markets and local food producers. They also support legislation that will help rural communities pay for water conservation to help reduce consumption in drought ravaged areas.
“With the public’s help, we can show elected officials in Oklahoma that the environment is a vital issue for many voters,” Ocamb said.
For more information, call 405-286-2277, or visit oklahoma2.sierraclub.org.