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Oklahoma House Passes Bills Limiting Local Control of Oil/Gas Activities

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a pair of bills on Wednesday that would prohibit localities from restricting or placing outright bans on a long list of oil and gas activities, and spelling out that such regulations are the dominion of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC).

Meanwhile, the City of Stillwater, OK held a public hearing Monday to discuss a proposed ordinance that could establish setbacks for oil and gas wells and ban disposal wells within the city limits, but the issue was tabled until the next city council meeting in May to take into consideration any action by the state.

Similar action is under way in Texas (see Shale Daily, April 17; April 15).

The Oklahoma House passed SB 809, which would allow localities to enact "reasonable ordinances, rules and regulations concerning road use, traffic, noise and odors incidental to oil and gas operations within [their] boundaries," so long as they are not inconsistent with any regulation established by state statute or the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC).

SB 809, which was introduced by House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), passed by a 64-32 vote. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration of three amendments tacked on by the House; an earlier version passed the Senate, 36-7, on March 11.

Under SB 809, localities would be allowed to "establish reasonable setbacks and fencing requirements for oil and gas well site locations...but [localities] may not effectively prohibit or ban any oil and gas operations, including oil and gas exploration, drilling, fracture stimulation, completion, production, maintenance, plugging and abandonment, produced water disposal, secondary recovery operations, flow and gathering lines or pipeline infrastructure. All other regulation of oil and gas operations shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the OCC."

SB 809 also stipulates that any local law that effectively interferes with access to, or takes control of, mineral rights would be considered a taking under state law. That stipulation was also the entirety of a second bill -- SB 468, introduced by Sen. Bryce Marlatt (R-Woodward) -- which passed the House by a 63-30 vote on Wednesday. SB 468 passed the Senate, 37-4, on March 12.

A third bill, HB 2178, contains language nearly identical to SB 809. Introduced by Hickman, HB 2178 passed the House on March 11 by a 69-26 vote, but was never introduced in the Senate.

In Stillwater, the city is considering a host of regulatory options on oil and gas activities. According to a summary posted on the city's website, Stillwater's land development committee and its planning commission both recommended enacting bans on "commercial disposal wells" and "onsite disposal" of wastewater from oil and gas activities. Both panels also recommended that operators be required to apply for a special use permit; submit site plans for drilling and production; submit a mitigation plan, and final review by the planning commission and city council.

Other suggestions include a 500-foot setback from any non-residential structure and a noise ordinance of 69 decibels from the edge of the production site. Current city code stipulates that a well must be 100 feet from any property line, 400 feet from any residential structure, 200 feet from any nonresidential structure and 660 feet from any school or church.

An employee in the city manager's office told NGI's Shale Daily that the city council took no action.

On Tuesday, scientists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey said disposal wells from oil and gas operations were "very likely" to be the cause for numerous recent earthquakes in the state (see Shale Daily, April 22). Gov. Mary Fallin's office also unveiled a website to track the earthquakes and provide the public news and information.

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