The new law prohibiting cities from banning fracking within their jurisdictions violates the conservative ideology of promoting local government control and benefits oil and gas companies over the interests of homeowners and other residents.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 809 into law Friday. It’s a bill that ensures oil and gas companies can drill within the limits of a municipality even if the people who live in that municipality don’t want them to do so. It other words, it takes away the right of individual citizens to protect their quality of life and personal welfare.
The bill came after the city of Denton, Texas voted to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in their city last year and as some people in Stillwater apparently contemplated a ban there. It was a preemptive strike by a Republican-dominated state legislature and government, but it hardly reflects the conservative mantra of individual determination.
In a news release, Fallin said the bill reaffirms “the Corporation Commission as the sole regulator of Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry,” noting the bill “prohibits municipalities from issuing moratoriums or bans on drilling while preserving their ability to adopt reasonable ordinances, rules and regulations concerning traffic issues, noise, fencing requirements and placing of drilling rigs.”
The basic official argument is that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission provides a needed consistency when it comes to drilling regulations that individual cities can’t provide. In her release, Fallin even mentioned how the commission was looking into the link between wastewater injection wells used in the fracking process and the dramatic surge in seismic activity here.
But that won’t mean much to homeowners suffering through the noise and traffic of a nearby fracking rig.
It might well be true that smaller cities lack a certain expertise in the engineering underlying the fracking process and its impact on the surrounding environment, but that simply doesn’t apply to a university city, such as Stillwater, or, say, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman. City officials and staff in those places either possess the knowledge or know where to seek the knowledge about fracking.
Centralizing regulations is problematic as well. An oil and gas company, for example, recently submitted a plan to frack near Lake Hefner, one of Oklahoma City’s main water supplies. The company withdrew the proposal because of a public outcry. This new law would seemingly make it more difficult to stop such projects under this philosophy of centralization.
Conservatives often cite “local control” and “individual rights” as values they support and bemoan what they see as a centralized, overreaching federal government. This bill contradicts those positions. If people in a city want to retain a certain quality of life and ban fracking near their homes, then let them do so. There remain plenty of places to frack for gas in this country.
As the country is discovering, so-called energy independence comes at a high cost, which includes earthquakes here and, as some environmentalists have long argued, water pollution. While the energy industry is vital to the state’s economy, there’s a breaking point in which its negative environmental impact outweighs the benefits. I think people are waking up to this basic point, especially in places like Texas and Oklahoma, which have experienced a fracking boom in recent years.
In the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking process, water laced with chemicals is injected by high pressure into underground rock formations that create fissures releasing gas and oil. The wastewater from that process is then injected again by high pressure into underground storage wells. Scientists now believe that it’s the wastewater injection well process that is triggering the surge in earthquakes here. Oklahoma led the lower 48 states in 2014 in the number of earthquakes registering 3.0 magnitude or higher.
The fracking boom here and elsewhere, often draped in the patriotic and geo-political language of “energy independence,” as I’ve mentioned, and “freedom” from the Middle East, is used by oil and gas companies to push against regulations. But the real cost of this country’s fracking boom is now becoming clear, and it’s happening, of course, on the local level where the environmental evidence mounts.
Obscene profits! Obscene profits! That’s what I say.
The editorial board of The Oklahoman always finds a way to take a serious local issue and turn it into a snarky smack down of anyone that doesn’t agree with its distorted right-wing conception of the universe.
In an April 6 editorial titled “Falling prices continue to take a toll on energy industry in Oklahoma, U.S,” the newspaper pointed out the negative impact of layoffs in the state’s oil and gas industry on the economy because of falling prices. That’s pretty typical stuff.
But this is the way the editorial gets into the issue:
THAT sound you don’t hear right now is the din from oil industry critics kvetching about “obscene profits.”
Funny how this group goes down a rabbit hole when things aren’t rosy for oil and gas producers, when profits are scarce (or nonexistent) and when the industry starts shedding high-paying jobs.
What nonsense. No one has gone down a rabbit hole. Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm is apparently still worth several billion dollars, and that’s obscene. Once prices rebound, he will be worth billions more. That’s obscene.
It’s obscene because of major income inequality throughout the world, and the terrible impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the environment in Oklahoma and elsewhere. The earthquakes here are probably not going to stop until oil and gas executives, such as Hamm, don’t make billions upon billions of dollars. Did I mention how obscene that is?
What the editorial fails to focus upon is that it’s not the richest executives who are losing their jobs. It’s mostly the men and women doing the geological and physical work of actually extracting the oil and gas from the ground. No one wants these people to lose their jobs in a personal sense. The green movement, of which I’m a member, would like to see a decline in fossil fuel drilling and more renewable energy development, but oil and gas companies are driven by the fact they can make obscene profit when prices are high. Many do so, and then when prices fall, they cut workers. That’s a fact.
What would be NOT obscene is if the oil and gas industry had sensible policies that would limit the impact of the boom and bust cycle, which has defined The Oil Age in the planet’s history.
What would be especially NOT obscene is if the federal government would establish an overall sensible, long-term energy policy that still encouraged the development for now of fossil fuels but also encouraged the development of renewable energy sources.
Let’s face it: The burning of fossil fuels has done much damage to our planet, which faces a global warming crisis. On the local level, the fracking process has been blamed for the huge surge in earthquakes, which is undoubtedly taking its toll on our buildings and infrastructure.
Billionaires like Hamm make billions of dollars off the wreckage.
I hope you caught my inaugural post in The Lost Ogle yesterday in which I laid out the coming financial downfall of Oklahoma and, sadly, in particular, the Oklahoma City area because we fracked our way into a mess and forgot we live on a planet with other countries and people.
Shortly after the post was published, state officials announced the state's coming budget shortfall has been doubled to more than $600 million. I DO think this number will rise.
Here's an excerpt from the post, published in Oklahoma City's most popular and irreverent blog:
Drill, baby, drill, has been the conservative mantra for “energy independence” from the world and freedom for people to drive Hummers again without embarrassment for displaying their “wasty ways”, as American novelist James Fenimore Cooper’s character Natty Bumppo would describe it. Yet drill, baby, drill, has put Oklahoma at risk once again. Drill, baby, drill? Why are we bringing “babies” into this muddle of geopolitics and neo-American colonialism? How about, drill, wasps, drill?
Here's the link to the entire post. I know it's a long post. It rambles. It meanders. It contains obscure references to serious literary figures and significant old rock songs. It's "wordy," people, yes, "wordy." Basically, it's your typical DocHoc train wreck of playfulness, frustration and, well, stirring up trouble by speaking truth to power. But can only power speak truth to power?
I really want to hear what you think about my new collaboration with TLO. Comment about it on Okie Funk's Facebook site.
But one thing I also want to point out today is that this little inconsequential blog, Okie Funk, predicted on Feb. 2 the state would eventually face a $1 billion budget shortfall because of oil field layoffs and declining gross production tax revenues. I hope it doesn't get that bad, but, for now, I'm sticking by that number. I think I win the you-were-right cigar at this point, anyway.
What's incredibly amazing is that that the mainstream media here and those brilliant "think" tanks that have done so much to help our state in recent years completely ignored this prediction and just regurgitated "experts"--basically themselves talking to each other--that said oil prices were going to rebound and all would be well.
This is the problem with the mainstream media here and the think tanks and the self-proclaimed experts. They are insular and afraid and arrogant. They either exist only for profit or themselves. The funny thing about the mainstream media profiteers is that you can actually make loads of money with truthful, irreverent reporting that is honest and true, but they won't do it because they are stuck in old timey models of journalism and boring rhetorical formats developed in the nineteenth century. The think tanks just become about writing their bland "reports" or "studies" that do nothing but quantify the obvious, and even then they won't step out of the boxes. They are about sustaining themselves as organizations, not helping people or making this a better place.
The Lost Ogle and this little blog that's only been around since 2004 tell it like it is whether you like the style or not, and the mainstream media and the think tanks don't even have the decency to acknowledge it's reporting information that's, really, old news. TLO had it first or Okie Funk said it two weeks ago. That's the way it goes these days.