Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry on Wednesday staged its first ever rally at the state Capitol.
About 1,000 people gathered on the south plaza for the Rally for the Rigs organized by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Several busloads arrived from Continental Resources Inc.
“Today is your opportunity to step up and speak up,” OIPA President Mike Terry said. “We are united as one voice in this industry.”
Former OIPA Chairman Mike Cantrell, a third-generation oilman from Ada, said Oklahoma is inextricably linked to its oil and natural gas industry.
He said the industry boasts 2 million royalty owners, 31,000 companies and almost 400,000 workers in Oklahoma.
“There’s no question that Oklahomans are all intertwined with everything that we do,” Cantrell said. “We are the most significant industry in this state, in the past, present and for the future. That’s not going to change.”
Cantrell said Oklahoma has fostered its oil industry since before statehood.
“Oklahoma’s got a long history of doing what is best for the oil and gas industry because they realize that’s what’s best for Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re not here to protest anything. We’re not mad about anything. We’re just here to remind our legislative friends, as they take up policies, ... of how important our industry is.
“We want to make sure they don’t create any unintended harm with what they do.”
Cantrell said state lawmakers wisely cut gross production taxes to 1 percent on expensive horizontal wells a few years ago to spur drilling.
“The capital from that measure has helped fuel the biggest economic boon in our state in decades,” he said.
The gross production tax rate has been the subject of ongoing debate during this legislative session, with some lawmakers insistent the rate should be increased.
Cantrell urged lawmakers not to raise taxes on the industry.
“The state of Oklahoma cannot afford to raise taxes on this industry, because when you raise taxes on this industry, you take money out of the economic engine that’s funding schools, that’s funding road projects, that’s building medical facilities,” Cantrell said.
Five lawmakers — Sens. Brian Bingman and Bryce Marlatt and Reps. Jeff Hickman, Leslie Osborn and John Trebilcock — expressed their support for the oil industry at Wednesday’s rally before the crowd went inside to lobby others.
Cantrell expressed confidence that lawmakers would continue to support the industry.
“They’re going to do what’s best for industry. Our job is merely to tell them our story, to give them some support.
“We’re benefitting every Oklahoman, not just our industry, when we keep drilling wells in Oklahoma, providing jobs, producing economic benefits in almost every community in the state.”
Unit Corp. executive Jim Greer said drilling activity in Oklahoma peaked in 2008 when there were 215 active rigs. The industry should surpass that figure this year, based on plans stated by public companies active in Oklahoma, he said. There currently are 193 rigs operating in Oklahoma.