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April 12, 2014

Drilling operation shows policy gap

(Continued)

NORMAN —

The Oil and Gas Conservation Division encourages recycling flowback water and using lower-quality water for hydraulic fracturing operations. Alternatives include lower quality groundwater and treated wastewater.

The city does have some off-line arsenic wells not far away, Komiske said, and that might be a possibility in the future if the company continues fracking in the area. That water would have to be trucked to the site, however. A tanker carries 25 tons of water, not including the weight of the truck which puts a lot of wear and tear on the roadways.

“We have a policy gap here,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “The policy is simply silent on this. To the clerk, there is no difference in applications. We don’t want to be sending mixed signals.”

The week of April 21, Rosenthal said a joint meeting between the city’s finance and council oversight committees to review the matter is likely.

“We ought to have some criteria when we issue these bulk water meter permits,” Rosenthal said. “We’re trying to move very quickly to address this policy gap.”

The city’s legal staff will be involved in the discussion.

“There may be limits on what we actually can do, but all of that will be on the table,” Rosenthal said.

Governmental action that unduly hampers legally permitted businesses can have expensive repercussions. In Rogers County, action by the Board of County Commissioners in 1998 that hampered a limestone mining operation resulted in a 12-year court battle and several appeals. Material Service v. Rogers County ended with a $14 million judgment with interest adding up to an accumulated $22 million against Rogers County.

Revenue bonds were issued to pay the debt.

Initially, the bill was going to be paid through ad valorem (property) taxes. After exploring all of the options, a one-percent county sales tax was adopted to pay the bill. A small portion of the county’s existing one-percent road tax is also being diverted to pay down the judgment.

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