Oklahoma’s towns and cities are no longer allowed to ban fracking under a bill signed into law on Friday by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.
The new law prohibits localities from choosing whether or not to have oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions, with exceptions for “reasonable” restrictions like noise and traffic issues. Other than that, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will retain control over oil and gas drilling.
The state commission is run by three elected commissioners, all of whom are Republican. Chairman Bob Anthony is a member of the National Petroleum Council, a group that advises the U.S. Department of Energy on oil and gas industry interests. And Vice Chairman Dana Murphy is a geologist and attorney with “more than 22 years experience in the petroleum industry,” according to her bio page.
Fracking — the process of injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock and release oil and gas — is prolific in Oklahoma, and Fallin said the new law would be necessary to prevent a “patchwork of inconsistent municipal regulations across the state.” In addition, Fallin said, allowing cities and towns to have control over whether fracking occurs could “damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers and largest taxpayers.”
Oklahoma is the second state to ban fracking bans. Last month, Texas became the first, when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to prohibit cities from banning the process.
That legislation was a major blow for the city of Denton, Texas, which had already passed a local fracking ban within city limits. Denton is now considering repealing that ban in the wake of Texas’ new law.
Oklahoma’s new ban comes amid warnings from the state’s own government that a recent dramatic spike in earthquakes is linked to wastewater injection, a key part of oil and gas activity and particularly fracking. To dispose of the immense amount of water used during fracking, companies inject it underground. Scientists increasingly believe the injections are disrupting faults and triggering quakes.
In saying oil and gas was likely responsible for the state’s earthquake epidemic, the state launched a website in April detailing why earthquakes are happening and what the state is doing to stop them. Letting localities ban fracking, however, is not one of the examples.