Pushing back against Big Oil

Pushing back against Big Oil

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a controversial technique utilizing the injection of various chemicals and water to free natural gas and petroleum from deep rock formations for extraction.  It has been around and used for several years and it does work for extracting those natural resources which are sought.  It however is not a benign method.  Its economic benefits have recently come flush up against its known environmental impact, especially around population centers.  Admittedly, most of my knowledge of the environmental effects of fracking come from word of mouth of people who have lived near drilling sites who verified the increased incidence of seismic activity which dropped dramatically when the practice was stopped.  When the Red Dirt Report reported Friday that Pedestal Oil had withdrawn its proposal to drill five oil and gas wells near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, I felt a surge of hope that finally some pushback by enough concerned citizens against petroleum industry interests could make a difference in the lives of all Oklahomans.  Indeed, Lake Hefner provides water for most of Greater Oklahoma City.

Years ago after I left active Naval service and bought a home and small acreage west of the McIntosh County town of Eufaula, I learned that land ownership in Oklahoma does not include mineral rights.  Indeed, I received a few certified letters from law firms representing oil companies explaining their right to explore my land for possible drilling.  I fortunately moved on before any of this became an issue but the last time I saw my old ranch home there was a huge gas well in the middle of my former neighbor’s front twenty!  The proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in OKC would have effected a lot more people than just myself.  Another thing noteworthy is how municipalities in other states have dealt with the issue.  Several cities and towns nationwide have successfully banned the practice of hydraulic fracking within their city limits.  Denton, TX was one town that passed a ban via municipal referendum this past Election Day.  Whether or not this could be done in Oklahoma remains to be seen.  Some towns have been able to counter drilling permits via zoning and water use ordinances.  In 2010, Tulsa lifted its 100 year old ban on drilling within the city limits.  So far, nobody has sunk a gas well in my neighbor’s yard and I don’t see anyone volunteering their property for such an endeavor.  When drilling happens in our front yard it will be we the people shouldering the burden of the risk to our water supply and housing structures while the drillers rake in the profits.  That should answer the question of who gives and who takes.

What Oklahoma can learn from a municipal fracking ban in Texas

 

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