Johnson Bridgwater is the Executive Director of Oklahoma Sierra Club.
It’s undeniable that the fracking boom has had a huge impact on many Oklahoma communities. It’s helped bring jobs and income to some, but the rapid increase in this new method of drilling has a flip side—communities have serious concerns about earthquakes and threats to vital water supplies for cities and towns, not to mention the noise, air pollution, and damage to infrastructure from highly industrial drilling operations.
In response to the grassroots concerns of their residents, several Oklahoma cities have sought to impose sensible regulations on drilling within city limits — such as 1,000-foot setbacks and limits on noise, traffic, gas flares, lights and dust. However, the Oklahoma State Legislature is on the verge of passing bills (House Bill 2178 and Senate Bill 809) that will strip away existing law that has for 80 years given cities and towns the right to zone, regulate and manage their own backyards when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Another proposal moving through the Legislature, Senate Bill 468, threatens to punish towns financially if they try to regulate local oil and gas activity.