Bill would prevent Oklahoma towns from banning drilling in their own city limits

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposal that is being considered by the legislature would prevent local governments from banning oil and gas drilling in their own city limits.

Supporters say the measure is needed to protect Oklahoma's economy.

The Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Jeff Hickman, says any ban on drilling should be up to the state, not local governments.

However, one lawmaker says this bill is not in the interest of voters. Instead, he says it helps the pockets of oil and gas lobbyists.

It's a battle over drilling that is sure to heat up as it moves through the House.

“Minerals don't stop under city limit boundaries,” said Hickman.

Hickman is standing up for a bill that would control who decides where drilling can take place.

In recent months, some towns have considered banning oil drilling in city limits.

Hickman’s bill would take the decision out of their hands, giving it to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“The communities should have the right to put setbacks in place to regulate which roads will be used, noise, odor, they should have the authority,” Hickman said.

Rep. Cory Williams, a democrat from Stillwater, is very opposed to the idea.

He says the committee considering the bill was obviously swayed, not by voters.

“There were no less than 30 to 35 oil lobbyists in that room. Our job is to represent the people who aren't paid to be there and that's our constituents,” Williams said.

Williams says the calls he's received are from those concerned about drilling near their homes, the dangers it could cause, the noise and other potential side effects.

“I know with regard to my constituents, I'm on the right side of the fence on this issue,” he said.

Hickman says it's not about taking away local control, rather doing what's best for the state.

“I think you need consistent policy,” Hickman said.

However, Williams disagrees, saying cities and towns should be in charge of what goes on in their city limits.

“They should have the ability to limit the intrusion into their lives that oil and gas gets to make,” Williams said.

There is at least one group who is planning to stand up against this bill.

The Central Oklahoma Clean Water Coalition says if this bill does become law, they will fight it in court.

They say it is unconstitutional.

The bill has already made it through committee and will now be considered by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

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