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Stillwater Officials: Lobbyists Warned Of Legislation If Drilling Ordinance Vote Not Delayed

Officials in at least two cities have publicly questioned bills filed during the 2015 legislative session that would limit the local governments’ authority to regulate oil and gas activity.

The bills’ authors say the measures are meant to prevent towns, cities and counties from banning or effectively banning oil and gas drilling and related production activities, like hydraulic fracturing. Officials in Norman and Stillwater, for their part, say the legislation is an overreach that could limit their ability to write ordinances to protect the health and safety of local residents.

Stillwater has been considering stricter oil and gas ordinances, including 1,000-foot setbacks and limits on things like noise, traffic, gas flares, lights and dust. Two Stillwater city councilors say oil industry representatives told them to delay their vote on the ordinance or state lawmakers would pass a law that could “cost the city a lot of money,” the Tulsa World‘s Ziva Branstetter reports:

The lobbyists and an attorney representing the Consumer Energy Alliance, an energy industry group based in Washington, D.C., told councilors that state lawmakers will approve one of two bills currently before the Legislature. If the council failed to delay its vote on the local ordinance, the lawmakers would pass the bill that is more restrictive of cities’ ability to regulate drilling, the councilors say they were told. Oklahoma-based lobbyists Pat Hall and Jim Dunlap met with council members before their March 23 meeting, during which councilors voted 3-2 to delay a vote on the ordinance. A public hearing on the ordinance had been set for April 6 but was delayed until April 20. “They said this is not a threat. … This is what will happen,” Councilor Gina Noble said.

Hall, the lobbyist, acknowledges asking Stillwater city councilors to delay a vote on the ordinance, but denies it was a threat.

“I don’t know if it (the vote) was because of us,” Hall said. “We tried to really reiterate that we were not in any way threatening them. We were just showing them that there’s two bills, … one that has the word ‘reasonable’ in it so the city of Stillwater could still pass an ordinance.”


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