Oklahoma Bars City Fracking Bans

Published July 22, 2015

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed a bill preventing Oklahoma cities and counties from banning hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking,” within their boundaries.

            The bill specifically prohibits cities and towns from banning operations such as drilling, fracking, water disposal, recovery operations, and pipeline infrastructure.

            The law, which takes effect 90 days after the May 29 signing, allows municipalities and counties to enact “reasonable” regulations concerning road use, traffic, noise, and odors incidental to oil and gas operation. It also allows cities to set fencing requirements around oil and gas drilling sites and establish setback requirements for how closely wells can be sited near homes or businesses.

            Robert Bradley Jr., CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, agrees with Oklahoma’s decision to prevent municipalities from banning fracking.

            “Towns and cities should not engage in drilling bans,” Bradley said. “Private property rights and directional drilling technology, not politics, should govern the hard cases of urban exploration and production.”

‘Perfectly Appropriate’ Action

Merrill Matthews Jr., a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, applaudes Oklahoma’s new law.

            “The oil and gas industry are major economic drivers in many states, and it would be bad policy as well as bad economics to let cities and counties stymie state commerce and economic development, just as it would be bad policy for a state to undermine national commerce and economic development,” said Matthews.

            “States created cities and counties, not the other way around,” Matthews said. “And so it is perfectly appropriate for state legislatures in Texas and Oklahoma to take the lead in prohibiting city and county fracking bans.”

            Gary Stone, vice president of engineering for Five States Energy, agrees Oklahoma’s decision to prevent local fracking bans is consistent with constitutional protections of property rights.

            “It is interesting to note the divergent paths Oklahoma and Maryland have taken regarding hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells,” Stone said, referring to Maryland’s recent ban on fracking.

            “Oklahoma joined with Texas in upholding the constitutional property rights of mineral owners by denying municipalities the ability to institute a hodgepodge of regulations barring normal oil and gas activities,” Stone said. “This would, in effect, deny the mineral owners the opportunity to profit from their ownership.” 

Authority Affirmed

Fallin says the law reaffirmed the three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission as regulator of the oil and gas industry.

            “Corporation commissioners are elected by the people of Oklahoma to regulate the oil and gas industry,” said Fallin in a statement. “They are best equipped to make decisions about drilling and its effect on seismic activity, the environment and other sensitive issues.

            “The alternative is to pursue a patchwork of regulations that, in some cases, could arbitrarily ban energy exploration and damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers, and largest taxpayers,” Fallin said. 

H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. 

Internet Info

Isaac Orr, “Research & Commentary: EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Report,” July 8, 2015; https://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-epa-hydraulic-fracturing-report