Editorial: Anyone who questions the benefits of collaboration and cooperation between groups with seemingly different goals should take a look at the latest annual Fraser Institute Global Petroleum Survey. The public policy think tank survey of petroleum industry executives and managers ranks Oklahoma as number 1 worldwide for natural gas and oil exploration and production based on our “safe and sensible” approach to development of our oil and gas resources and protection of our environment.
The survey finds the result of this approach are “clear, consistent, and competitive” regulations that encourage energy producers to put millions of dollars to work in Oklahoma while safeguarding our state’s natural resources.
This ranking didn’t come about overnight. It is the result of building on a firm foundation, with Oklahomans from both the public and private sector taking part. Oklahoma has a long history of being in the forefront of oil and gas regulation, from the early well casing requirements to keep groundwater separate from oil and natural gas to the nation’s first well-spacing law in 1935. But in order to meet modern-day and ever-evolving challenges and continue to move forward, it takes the effort of all of Oklahoma. The paradigm at the Corporation Commission has shifted from just fulfilling the traditional role of regulators to additionally serving as facilitators, innovators and problem solvers dealing with complicated issues involving diverse interests.
The result has been a collaborative effort on a number of fronts that has attracted the attention of other states and countries who want to see what we’ve done on issues such as horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and groundwater protection. Stakeholders from various sectors have responded to the Commission’s invitation to join in the work. Surface owners, environmentalists, mineral owners, the various sectors within the oil and gas industry, the Oklahoma legislature, as well as state and local officials have all played key roles in developing new programs that take into account the needs of all the stakeholders, while allowing Oklahoma’s energy economy to grow in a way that benefits the entire state.
Examples of this include new regulations that accommodate the drilling of longer laterals with horizontal drilling, resulting in a smaller, more environmentally-friendly surface footprint which also improves the cost-effectiveness of developing Oklahoma’s shale resources. Another example is the new rules to develop standards and procedures to encourage the recycling of flowback water from drilling sites, reducing the demand on freshwater resources. A group comprised of Commission staff, rural water districts, municipal officials, counties, tribes, oil and gas operators, environmentalists and others has worked successfully together to strengthen the protection of municipal water supplies while continuing to allow development of our oil and natural gas resources.
“Clear, consistent, and competitive” energy regulations in Oklahoma require three additional things: Cooperation, Collaboration and the Commission.
Oklahoma’s place of prominence for energy investment is proof of the benefits of that approach.