State senator says it’s not time to legislate after Kingfisher water war meeting

KINGFISHER, Okla. - A battle waged over water for months is pushed forward as a group of concerned landowners get answers. They met with representatives from state-regulating industries, and are now looking towards representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to take action.

Landowners wanted to find out how to protect the water table beneath their land from being polluted or depleted. It's a concern after a neighbor applied for permits and started digging 29 water wells around his property to sell the water to oil and gas.

"It's one thing for domestic use and livestock," said one landowner in the meeting. "It's something totally different for someone to come out here and get fat rich over selling water that somebody's children is someday going to need to drink because we've come sucked it down a well."

But the answers they were met with was often a frustrating "gray area," because each agency only has authority over a certain aspect of the problem, and there's not a streamlined, or up-to-date process, to protect the water used for oil and gas.

"Gray areas where we've got this new development, and maybe the statutes haven't kept up with the technology," said Tim Baker with the OCC. "What kind of changes do we need to make?"

"If you guys know that these gray areas are here, do you all call some of the legislators and say, hey, can we sit down and try to fix this stuff?" said a landowner. "And why hasn't more been done?"

Now, the landowners are looking at their legislators to make some change and give the state agencies the necessary authority before it's too late, and the water is contaminated or gone.

"We've finally gotten some legislators to listen," said landowner Kim DeGust.

State Senator Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, was at the meeting, and he said he agrees that fracking technology is outpacing current regulation.

"Some of the water laws we have on the books now are really old and they’re not necessarily practical, or applicable, to the technology today," Jech said.

But, he insists the oversight is left up to the Corporation Commission, not lawmakers. Not yet, anyway.

"I’m not one to think that new laws are always the way to fix problems," he said. "I think I’d like to see industry and the concerned citizens get together and get a fix on their own, reach some sort of compromise before it reaches a point where we need to enact more laws."

Many here feel that time has come.

"We want to get the Legislature to follow through and make the changes," DeGust said.