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Fracking bans unlikely in Oklahoma, observers say

Oklahoma cities can regulate activities within their borders, but observers say any ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state is unlikely.
By Jay F. Marks, Business Writer Modified: July 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm •  Published: July 17, 2014
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Workers tend to a well head in March 2013 during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Oil & Gas Inc. gas well in western Colorado. AP File Photos
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AP file photo
Workers tend to a well head in March 2013 during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Oil & Gas Inc. gas well in western Colorado. AP File Photos - AP file photo

City leaders in Denton, Texas, this week refused to enact a ban on hydraulic fracture, but voters in that north Texas city could choose to outlaw the practice within city limits in November’s general election.

Other communities around the country have considered banning hydraulic fracturing, a process credited with sparking a renaissance in domestic oil and natural gas production. It involves blasting thousands of gallons of water, mixed with a small amount of sand and chemicals, into dense shale formations to release oil and natural gas.

Observers say such a ban is unlikely in Oklahoma, although state law gives municipalities wide latitude to regulate activities within their borders.

Tulsa has outlawed drilling in the city limits since the late 1920s, a move that effectively bans hydraulic fracturing as well since it has become the industry’s standard process for completing oil and natural gas wells.

Cities like Marlow and Guthrie have banned drilling as well, but officials have made exceptions at times.

A potential complication for any effort to ban hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma is the split between surface owners and property owners, who have different interests. Property laws are different in states like New York, where communities have successfully banned hydraulic fracturing.

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association President Mike Terry said state residents understand the importance of oil and natural gas production, which has been a constant in Oklahoma’s history.

“In Oklahoma, those of us who live close to the wellhead have a better understanding of the oil and gas industry,” he said. “As oil and natural gas production moves into states that have traditionally seen little to no energy exploration, a lack of understanding about the drilling process and the industry as a whole leads to confusion and, in some cases, fear.”

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