As someone who has spent most of my career working for the energy industry, and as a state senator since 2006, it’s always been my mission to help Oklahoma drive economic growth, implement business-friendly policies and defend this state’s energy resources and independence. One of my most important policy objectives has been to protect access to dependable, low-cost electricity for all Oklahomans.
We’re blessed with an abundance of natural resources that power not only our quality of life, but also economic progress across the state. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is less than 5 percent, largely thanks to energy production and low-cost energy generation. That’s why I championed the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 39 this legislative session, which stresses to the Environmental Protection Agency that Oklahoma intends to have the final word on important energy policy decisions instead of handing over the keys to our energy and economic future to unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
Oklahoma generates more than 80 percent of its electricity with fossil fuels — the most dependable and low-cost sources — with an even split between natural gas and coal. On average, therefore, Oklahomans spend nearly 25 percent less for electricity than the rest of the country. This isn’t a coincidence. The natural resources we use for our electricity in large part are produced here at home. But to assure that businesses and families continue to have access to dependable, low-cost electricity, Oklahoma will have to maintain the diverse mix of energy production and generation that it employs today.
If we aren’t careful with our energy policy, increasing electricity rates and the threat of regular brownouts and blackouts could become the new reality. The EPA is working overtime to jam through an unprecedented number of regulations before the end of President Barack Obama’s second term. The regulations collectively represent an attempt by unelected bureaucrats to set a national energy policy that will force dramatic changes in how every state, including Oklahoma, produces electricity.
Recently the EPA proposed new greenhouse gas regulations for existing power plants. While the EPA has been primarily shutting down coal plants with its regulations, natural gas plants will soon be in the agency’s sights.
Thankfully, Oklahoma’s elected officials have led the charge against EPA overreach. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is working to force an up or down vote in Congress for all major EPA regulations that put at risk our access to low-cost electricity. Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been a leader in outlining how EPA greenhouse gas regulations for existing power plants would be an unconstitutional abuse of power. Pruitt filed suit against EPA over the agency’s well-known “sue and settle” practices in coordination with environmental activist groups.
The Legislature stepped up in passing SCR 39, which sends the right message to the EPA: Oklahomans know their energy and environmental needs best, and state policymakers will lead the charge in protecting our economy from unnecessary and overreaching EPA regulations.
Bingman, R-Sapulpa, is president pro tem of the Oklahoma Senate.