OKLAHOMA CITY — Two bills designed to limit local restrictions on oil and gas operations and backed by the oil and gas industry won approval in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.
While some members argued that the bills would leave homeowners at the mercy of “tall building lawyers,” as Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, put it, the majority found Senate Bill 809, by Sen. Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and SB 468, by Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, reasonable protections for operators and royalty owners.
SB 809 would prohibit local governments from banning oil and gas drilling but would allow “reasonable” ordinances related to “road use, traffic, noise and odor.”
SB 468 would classify ordinances that interfere with oil and gas production as a “taking” of property for which royalty owners could be compensated.
Williams said municipalities that have looked into drilling ordinances have been “threatened” by oil and gas lobbyists and that the bill’s use of the word “reasonable” in describing allowed ordinances favors oil and gas operators because they have deeper pockets.
“If oil and gas tells you that 350 feet is (a) reasonable (setback), you had better think long and hard about suing,” he said.
Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, House sponsor of SB 809, said the bill is a sensible compromise that protects all parties and is “based not on political rhetoric but on science.”
SB 468 House sponsor Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City, said ordinances that interfere with royalty owners’ rights amount to stealing.
Several Oklahoma municipalities have oil and gas drilling bans dating back decades. Hickman said those would have to be amended under SB 809.
Tulsa banned drilling for more than a century until the ordinances were amended several years ago to allow it under certain circumstances.
Also in the House Wednesday:
Calvey startled colleagues by loudly declaring that if he were not a Christian he would go across the street to the state Supreme Court building, douse himself in gasoline and set himself on fire to “protest the evil in that building.”
Calvey, an anti-abortion rights activist, was trying to persuade the House not to approve scheduled raises for Supreme Court justices and other appellate court judges and employees. Withholding the pay increases, said Calvey, is the only way to punish the court for its rulings on abortion-rights cases with which he disagrees.
“There is a systematic effort by our state Supreme Court to nullify the will of the people when it comes to the protection of the least among us,” Calvey said.
SB 548 House sponsor Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said the 6 percent raises, which will be paid from court fees, were supposed to have gone into effect last year but were dropped by mistake from the authorizing legislation.
The measure passed 57-37 and goes back to the Senate for final passage.
SB 505, by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, passed 64-32 on reconsideration after having been defeated two days earlier.
The measure establishes a revolving fund for the the statewide virtual charter school board.
Thursday is the last day Senate bills and resolutions can be heard in the House.