Energy & Environment

SB 500 (Easley/Glover): The Electric Restructuring Act of 1997 was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in late April. The bill was the result of two years of interim study under the direction of Senator Easley, Chair of the Joint Electric Utility Task Force and was designed to provide for the orderly restructuring of the electric utility industry in the state and move the state toward open competition for electricity generation. The bill calls for a series of studies to be conducted by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Corporation Commission, the subjects of which were outlined in SB 500, and which must be completed prior to the target date for open competition - July 1, 2002. Legislation must be enacted implementing changes before open competition, or "retail wheeling" can go into effect. The bill also recreates the Joint Electric Utility Task Force which expired at the end of 1996. The Task Force will oversee the studies provided for in SB 500.

SB 600 (Easley/Rice): Creating the Energy Commission of Oklahoma, was voted down by the House. The bill was a result of an interim study by the Energy Administration Reform Task Force made up of thirty-three industry representatives and Legislator members. The purpose was to eliminate agency overlap and duplication of effort, provide the industry and public with expedient regulatory services and better utilize state financial resources for regulatory services. SB 600 attempted to combine all energy-related state government activities into one agency including: the Oil and Gas Conservation Division, the Fuels Division and the underground and aboveground storage tank regulatory programs from the Corporation Commission, the Dept. of Mines, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board, and the alternative fuels programs of the Dept. of Central Services. The new agency was to be modeled after the recently created Department of Environmental Quality which combined several state environmental regulatory agencies and established "citizen advisory councils" to advise the Environmental Quality Board in promulgating rules governing the various industries. (Failed in the Legislature)

Of interest to many members early on in the session was the drastic increase in the prices of natural gas and propane.

  • In SR 2 (Shurden) Senator Shurden requested a Senate inquiry into the cause of such price escalation be done by the Senate Business and Labor Committee. The Committee met March 31st and questioned various representatives of the natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas industries, the Corporation Commission and oil and gas producers and royalty owners. The Committee was told that while there were many possible causes, including harsh weather in many parts of the country and decreased production of propane, none could be readily identified and fuel costs were expected to return to more normal levels in the near future.

  • On the same subject, HCR 1001 (Adair/Littlefield) memorialized the U.S. Congress to undertake an immediate review of the increase in propane prices and investigate the possibility of taking action to protect consumers from dramatic price fluctuations and also called on the Governor to use the power of the executive branch to investigate soaring propane prices and make recommendations to protect Oklahoma propane consumers.

  • The Commission on Natural Gas Policy expired in February of 1997 and was recreated in SB 464 (Easley/ Rice)for the purpose of providing industry input into legislation and policies affecting the natural gas industry. The new Commission will continue until December 31, 1999.

 

HB 1396 (Roach/Easley): Was hotly debated several times in both houses. The bill dealt with pipeline easements and prohibits unreasonable interference with a pipeline easement by property owners. The bill was designed to keep pipeline easements free of landscaping which would impair aerial observation of the pipeline. (VETOED)

HB 1401 (Rice/Easley): Creates a new level of permitting for the Department of Environmental Quality to be known as "general permits". This level of permit is limited to activities currently under the Tier I and Tier II classifications and is subject to all the administrative procedures required under Tier II but not the administrative process for rule making.

HB 1713 (Beutler/Easley): Creates a trust called the Oklahoma Landfill Closure Authority for the purpose of providing a financial assurance mechanism to owners and operators of private solid waste disposal sites to satisfy financial requirements necessary for closure and post closure maintenance obligations. HB 1713 creates a revolving fund for DEQ designated as the "Solid Waste Facility Emergency Closure Fund Special Account" for the purpose of closing landfill sites where the owners or operators fail to adequately provide closure and post closure financial assurance. The measure further requires the Department of Environmental Quality to use at least 10% of the annual income from solid waste fees to assist counties in implementing their solid waste management plans.

Several bills were introduced this session dealing with the Grand River Dam Authority.

HB 1920 (Hutchison/Easley) was vetoed by the Governor. The measure attempted to add a member to the Board of Directors, the member would have to be a member serving on the Grand Lakes Advisory Commission and be a resident of Craig, Delaware, Mayes or Ottawa counties. (VETOED)

HB 2049 (Rice/Easley): The Governor had several objections to this measure which were then addressed . The Grand Lakes Advisory Commission is repealed and recreated without legislative members and with the ability for the Advisory Commission to nominate the next "at large" member to the Board of Directors provided, however, such member does not have to be a member of the Advisory Commission and there is no residency or other qualification other than those prescribed by statute for all members of the Board of Directors. HB 2049 further gives the GRDA Board of Directors the authority to implement pay adjustments for GRDA employees to correct internal inequities provided the adjustments do not increase the base payroll in excess of recommendations made in a study completed by the Office of Personnel Management.

 

 

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