Stillwater Considers Drilling Regulations

Monday, February 16th 2015, 6:48 pm

Folks in Stillwater fighting for stricter regulations for oil and gas drilling within city limits will have to wait another week for a decision from the city council.

Monday night's meeting was postponed because of the weather. But even a decision by the city council may not be the final word.

The council could table the issue because of proposed state-wide legislation that limits how far a city can go when making these types of rules.

Kel Pickens and his wife, Carolyn, have lived on a picturesque piece of property east of Stillwater for nearly 20 years. But last spring, when their peace was interrupted by helicopters, they started to get concerned.

“A lot of people in this area knew what that meant and that drilling and oil gas operations were not far behind,” said Kel.

They are part of the group pushing Stillwater City Councilmembers to adopt new city regulations that would increase the distance drilling sites have to be from homes, put limits on light and noise levels on rigs, and limit pollution.

The regulations passed the planning commission and will now be considered by the entire city council. However, at least eight separate bills introduced in this year's legislative session, including HB 2178 authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman, would set limits on how far a city can go.

“Traffic issues, noise issues, odors, those types of things they (municipalities) should have the ability to address those,” said Hickman.

But Hickman said when it comes to exploration, drilling, fracture stimulation, that jurisdiction should rest with the Corporation Commission.

“You've seen it in Texas and other states where communities have tried to do these bans and it leads to punishing mineral owners who are no longer able to get income from the royalties they own.”

Still, Kel and Carolyn say that doesn't mean they are letting their guard down.

“I know we're up against a very big industry, very powerful, lots of money behind that it's not that surprising. But I'm not going to lose faith in the power of the people.”

The Stillwater City Council meeting has been reschedule until next Monday.