Editor’s Notebook: Rhetorical Jabs, Votes by Mail, Small Business, Seismic Activity

OKLAHOMA CITY — From an editor’s notebook, a state official jabs at a “gadfly” lawyer, the Election Board touts voting by mail, a small biz champ, and a state senator frets over “a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.”

Preston Doerflinger, state cabinet secretary of finance and director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) is probably glad Oklahoma City lawyer Jerry Fent has backed off his litigation against the new oil and gas tax system.

However, he is aggravated at a new lawsuit from the well-known “gadfly” lawyer (who has successfully reversed several state laws) trying to slap down the new Capitol repair bond structure.

In a statement to reporters on Wednesday (September 17), Doerflinger said, concerning Fent’s push against the provisions of House Joint Resolution 1033, the measure authorizing a start on repairs at the Capitol:

“The objection has no merit and will be a temporary inconvenience to what will be a fabulous project restoring the Capitol for the people of Oklahoma.

“The funding mechanism is fully proper and consistent with numerous previous bond measures, so the Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority will act at its meeting next week to request the Supreme Court to uphold this law. Given the absurdity of the complaint, we expect the (state Supreme Court) will act quickly in upholding this law.

“Mr. Fent earned my respect for some of his past efforts to hold government accountable, but baseless complaints like this are a pure waste of the taxpayers’ time and resources all for Mr 

Fent’s own amusement and publicity. We’re approaching a point where Mr. Fent becomes government saboteur rather than watchdog, and that’s unfortunate for critical projects like this that need to proceed without delay.”

The state Board of Elections wants to educate Oklahomans on how to “Skip the Line, Vote by Mail.” The agency is launching a new website by that name, noting in a press release the state “does not require voters to have an excuse to vote absentee. Any registered voter can apply to vote by mail.”

Reporters in the state’s two largest cities have been invited to briefings on Thursday (September 18), including observing election workers getting absentee ballots prepared.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, has been awarded the “Guardian of Small Business” award from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Reacting to presentation of the award from Dan Danner, President and CEO of NFIB, Lankford issued this statement:

“I am honored to do what I can to protect and preserve the thousands of small businesses I represent in the Fifth District of Oklahoma,

“On an almost hourly basis, this Administration attempts to stifle entrepreneurship and innovation with regulatory burdens and excessive mandates. But, in spite of the challenges stacked against them, hardworking American business owners and families work together to create the engine of the American economy. I remain committed to fighting against federal overreach to ensure American businesses can continue to flourish and support our families.”

A breakdown of how members of Congress voted on small business issues, from the NFIB’s perspective, can be accessed here.
Recently, State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, released excerpts from letters he has received from concerned Oklahomans fretting over increased seismic activity. A common theme is the letters if that oil and gas production disposal wells are the culprits.

In one of those letters, Bill Wietelman of Logan County said, “Earthquakes in my area seem to be getting stronger. I feel I have received damage to my brick garage.”

Wietelman is frustrated the Corporation Commission, which has been studying the state’s jump in tremors for three years, says it wants more time to determine the cause of the quakes: 

“By the time they finish their study our houses will have heavy damages.”

While analysts at the University of Oklahoma and at the Commission have indicated cause for the increase is seismic activity is unclear, Ellis is pointing to a July 3 study published in Science which concluded “subsurface wastewater disposal wells”  are to blame.

A recent press release from Sen. Ellis pointed out, “More than 3,350 disposal wells have been drilled in Oklahoma, and they accepted nearly 1.09 billion barrels of wastewater – 45.7 billion gallons – from oil and gas production operations in 2012, Corporation Commission ledgers indicate. In comparison, the total volume of saltwater disposed of in Oklahoma was 844 million barrels in 2007, commission records reflect. The average oil well in Oklahoma reportedly produces about 10 barrels of saltwater for every barrel of oil.”

You may contact Pat: patrick@capitolbeatok.com .