Randy McMurphy figures he’s the reason for Senate Bill 1812.
The bill would allow companies to secure a permit for temporary use of the right of way along public roads.
Sen. Bryce Marlatt, who sponsored the bill with Rep. Mike Jackson, said it merely codifies existing practices around the state.
“It’s a practice that has been going on forever,” he said.
Marlatt said one county commissioner, Woods County’s McMurphy, balked at that so SB 1812 was introduced. The Woodward Republican said the bill is meant to protect the public from the additional truck traffic that would come if oil and natural gas companies can no longer get permits to put temporary water lines along public roads.
McMurphy said he is looking out for the public as well, standing up for the rights of property owners.
He said county commissioners do not have the authority to grant permits to anyone but public utilities, according to his reading of the law.
“I think we’re overstepping our bounds,” McMurphy said.
McMurphy, whose district stretches from Alva west to the Harper County line, said landowners should be consulted before companies are given access to their property. They still own the right of way, even though the county has been granted an easement for a road.
McMurphy set his own policy about a year ago, requiring anyone seeking a permit to access the right of way to get consent from all affected property owners.
He said SB 1812 would leave landowners out of that process.
“They need to give their consent,” he said.
McMurphy acknowledged he is largely “standing alone” in opposing the bill, which is supported by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and energy companies like Continental Resources Inc.
Jeff Wilson, the association’s vice president of governmental affairs, said issuing temporary permits for water lines is not a controversial practice across the state.
He said SB 1812 still requires companies to apply for permits and clean up the property when they’re done.
“From our end, it’s a no brainer,” Wilson said.
The bill is awaiting action on the Senate floor. That must come by Thursday if it is to be considered by the House this year.
The Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma has not taken a position on the bill.
Executive Director Gayle Ward said some counties have had problems with water lines causing safety hazards for residents, but the law is not clear on how to handle temporary obstruction of the right of way.
She said SB 1812 would clarify legislative intent on the issue, if it is passed.