The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 23, 2012

Corporation commissioner says fracking is critical for economy

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Oklahoma Corporation Commission member Patrice Douglas told Enid Rotary Club the oil and gas industry is under attack by Washington, D.C.

Speaking at the club’s weekly meeting Monday, Douglas said Oklahoma is in the forefront of that attack because half the state’s economy comes from oil and natural gas.

“We’ve been fracking in Oklahoma since 1948. In Pennsylvania and other states, they are fighting over it,” Douglas said of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling method of pumping liquids at high pressure into the ground to break up rock formations so oil can be extracted.

Douglas, former mayor of Edmond, said she was told by President Barack Obama during a national mayor’s conference luncheon the administration was going to deflect the heat directed at it to the oil and gas industry.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently approved a rule that identifies hydraulic fracking fluids and regulates where they are used. She said Oklahoma knows how to deal with fracking and should be a national leader on the issue.

“There are seven or eight states where it is done, and they need to lead,” Douglas said.

Other states do not know about environmental issues involved in fracking, but Oklahoma has done a good job of caring for those issues.

Answering a question from the audience, Douglas said the Mississippi limestone formation in northwest Oklahoma will be “pretty big.” Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued more than 11,000 permits for the area last year. Bill Ward, president of Sandridge Oil Co., has compared the formation to the Bakken Shale play in North Dakota and Montana, and Douglas said his estimate could be accurate.

Douglas said she reads 200 pages of material each night to prepare for her job and depends on the assistance of staff members. The commission has issued permits for between six and eight horizontal wells, one 18,000 feet deep and more than 10,000 feet long. She said she believes there will be more wells that drill 10,000 feet in length or more because of technology in the industry.

The biggest need for Oklahoma Corporation Commission is modernization, Douglas said: Oil and gas companies need to have the accessibility to file paperwork and permit requests online.

Speaking on other topics, Douglas said roads and bridges also come under Oklahoma Corporation Commission review because of the commission’s regulation of the trucking industry. She said eight ports of entry will be built in Oklahoma that will weigh trucks as they move so officials will know what is in them. If there is no problem, the trucks will not be stopped again in the state.

The first two ports of entry are on schedule. The first is near Ponca City on the east side of Kay County. The second is in Beckham County near Elk City. Others proposed are on Interstate 44 near the border with Missouri, the east side of Interstate 35, south U.S. 69, one on the south entry to Oklahoma and one in southeastern Oklahoma. One other has not been determined. Douglas said the ports were chosen based on the truck traffic count through the areas.

Douglas also said she is serious about small business. She came from the banking industry, which is heavily regulated, and always questions any proposal for new rules.

“I always ask, ‘Are we sure we’re doing this the best way for small business?’” she said.

Douglas served as president of SpiritBank and executive vice president of First Fidelity Bank. She was appointed to the Oklahoma Bankers Association board of directors in May 2011. She was elected Edmond mayor in 2009 before being named to Oklahoma Corporation Commission in 2010.