OKLAHOMA CITY – For more than five hours Friday, State Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City) listened to people from across the state of Oklahoma, angry about earthquakes.
“This is an issue that’s taken on legs,” he said after the public forum he organized. “It’s not a democratic, republican or independent party issue. This is an Oklahoma resident issue. It’s an Oklahoma business issue. It’s an oil and gas issue, and it’s going to be addressed. There’s going to be change in public policy in one way or another.”
To date, there have been no bills filed to address the state’s earthquakes, but Morrissette said public forums put the state “absolutely closer to action.”
“This is not an anti oil and gas concept,” he said. “This is about a safety issue. It’s about property value issues. It’s about protecting the people of Oklahoma where they live.”
Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia) sat in on the forum too, even after holding one of his own in Edmond Thursday night.
He said he understands the frustration expressed Friday.
“We have a tremendous industry,” he said of horizontal drilling. “We know what to do to get the stuff out but, if we’re inducing earth movement, inducing earthquakes, we need to be able to push the brake on the disposal system that we have that then stops the earthquakes.”
Moore said the state is taking steps toward solving the problem, though he pointed out lawmakers are “not doing the right thing until the shaking stops.”
He said lawsuits are only slowing down the process.
Though the public heard from geologists and the state’s insurance commissioner Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin did not attend, and the public noticed.
At least one speaker called her out for missing the meeting.
Both Moore and Morrissette said they felt at the very least someone from the governor’s administration should have been present.
“[The people] took the time to come out here to voice their opinion. Why didn’t she come here and voice her opinion and face the music from some of these disgruntled people?” Morrissette asked. “She’s the face of Oklahoma. She’s the top-ranked official in the state of Oklahoma. These people wanted to hear from her, and she wasn’t here.”
The governor’s press secretary told NewsChannel 4 Gov. Fallin was “conducting the state’s business.”
“Much of her time today was involved on issues affecting the state’s economy, such as preparing the state’s budget, which must be presented to legislators in a little more than two weeks,” said Press Secretary Michael McNutt in an email. “The governor is not just talking about earthquakes. She continues to work on finding solutions. Her Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity, which she formed more than a year ago, meets regularly to develop a response to the earthquakes and to ensure that the energy industry, state agencies, environmentalists and academics are all talking and sharing data. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which has exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas in the state, and the governor’s secretary of energy and environment are actively working on this issue. Just two days ago, the Corporation Commission issued a directive that 27 saltwater disposal wells in the Fairview area limit volumes. There is no need for the governor to intervene at this time.”