On the next-to-last day of the 2015 legislative session, the Oklahoma Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 809.
This bill aims to repeal prior law allowing local governments to regulate oil and gas drilling and waste water disposal in their municipal jurisdictions.
Oklahoma Sierra Club Director Johnson Bridgwater responded to this action by saying, “In light of the fact that the State of Oklahoma recently admitted to a connection between the use of underground injection wells, and the unbelievable rise of earthquakes in Oklahoma, it is unfathomable that the State Legislature would react by passing legislation that strips local governments in our state of their authority to fully regulate and address the very industries and businesses that are being identified as the cause of this very real and very serious threat to the safety and well-being of all of these communities and their residents.”
Sixteen counties– Alfalfa, Garfield, Noble, Payne, Lincoln, Oklahoma, Grant, Logan, Woodward, Pawnee, Seminole, Garvin, Stephens, Love, Carter and Marshall — are identified as “areas of interest” when it comes to underground injection wells and earthquake frequency.
S.B. 809 will place all regulatory authority over Oklahoma’s oil and gas businesses in the hands of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Critics of S.B. 809 note the agency contends it does not have adequate resources. The Commission saw budget trimmed in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget approved on the last day of the session.
The United States Geological Survey predicts, Sierra Club notes, a doubling of Oklahoma earthquakes over the next year. Sierra Club, in a press release, said, “The USGS has also stated that a larger earthquake is likely as a result of the sheer number of smaller quakes now occurring on a daily basis.”
Oklahoma Sierra Club called on Gov. Mary Fallin to execute her veto authority.
Bridgwater said, “For a Republican-led Legislature to take away local authority and place it in the hands of the State is incredibly ironic.”