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Stillwater, OK, Sets New Rules For Oil, NatGas Drilling

Oklahoma earlier this year enacted a law reiterating its primacy in regulating drilling activities, but the city council in the university town of Stillwater, OK, on Monday passed an ordinance setting rules for oil and natural gas drilling within the city limits.

Separately, the council passed a resolution urging county elected officials to do the same.

City officials told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday that the new state law actually encouraged their action by empowering local governments to assert their authority in limited zoning areas, such as setback requirements for wells.

The state law allows local governments to pass "reasonable" restrictions on oil/gas activity within their jurisdictions for setbacks, noise, traffic issues and fencing, some of the issues addressed by Stillwater's ordinance.

In an amendment to Stillwater's land development code (Ordinance 3310), the five-member council unanimously created a section for oil/gas drilling, establishing site plan requirements, mitigation/restoration plan requirements and local standards for drilling and completion of wells.

Less than two months ago Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law SB 809 reaffirming the primacy of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in regulating the oil and gas industry (see Shale DailyJune 1). Oklahoma billed the action as effectively preventing localities from enacting separate regulations, including barring attempts to restrict or ban hydraulic fracturing and injection wells.

Texas enacted similar legislation in May (see Shale Daily, May 18).

Stillwater's council also voted 4-1 to draft a resolution asking Payne County to pass a similar ordinance. Councilman Miguel Najera was opposed, although he supported the city's ordinance. He said he didn't think the city should tell the county what to do.

Stillwater City Attorney John Dorman said council members received input from residents and the oil/gas industry, and they analyzed the new state requirements. "I think we have met the standards that the state established," Dorman told NGI’s Shale Daily. "We're only regulating setback, noise and odors, things specifically related to permitting; there is not much to it, it's a pretty simple ordinance."

Dorman said the city received "different responses" from the industry, and "we talked to them a lot, and a lot of the comments they made found their way into the ordinance. The end product is a very nontechnical zoning ordinance."

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) officials told reporters the new rules were "significantly unreasonable," essentially shutting out oil/gas development in the city.

In a letter sent Monday to Mayor Gina Noble, OIPA's A. J. Ferate, vice president for regulatory affairs, warned the ordinance would "prevent future drilling," saying the setback of 660 feet is "unreasonable." Ferate said the ordinance conflicts with SB 809, and "conflicts with itself and sets unreasonable standards."

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