BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The Ethic of Reciprocity is found in nearly every world religion and philosophical tradition or dispensation. Bahá’í Faith: Choose for your neighbor what you would choose for yourself. Jewish Faith [The Talmud]: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. Buddhist Faith: Hurt no others with that which pains yourself. Muslim Faith: You are not a believer until you desire for your brother what you desire for yourself.
The list goes on. Hindu Faith: One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire. Analects of Confucius: Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire. Isocrates: Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others.
Christianity’s version is: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Of course you recognize this Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule.
Unfortunately, those in charge at the Oklahoma Capitol have ascribed a different meaning to “The Golden Rule.” The state government version is more similar to that espoused in a May 1965 Wizard of Id comic strip where the king declares: “REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE!” and a peasant responds: “WHAT THE HECK IS THE GOLDEN RULE?” and a musician replies: “WHOEVER HAS THE GOLD MAKES THE RULES.”
Most all Oklahomans are aware that several decades ago oil and gas exploration companies were able to convince Oklahoma courts that the mineral estate was the dominant estate and the surface estate was the subservient estate. This “profit a prendre” determination gave mineral owners the absolute right to use so much of the surface as is necessary to produce the minerals.
While there were basically no regulatory limitations on oil and gas exploration in rural areas, municipalities for more than eight decades were able to protect people and property from encroachment by establishing setbacks, requiring surety bonds to cover damages to homes, businesses, water sources and roads, and regulating other nuisances caused by oil and gas operations.
In 2015, in the face of increases in the number and severity of earthquakes and the introduction of hundreds of millions of gallons of Oklahoma’s valuable fresh water into the drilling process, “he that had the gold” undertook to convince the Legislature that the 80-year-old rule was too burdensome.
As a result, a new “golden rule” was established in the form of 52 O.S. Section 137.1 requiring that any municipal rule, except for an undefined “reasonable setback and fencing” requirement had to be “consistent” with the rules of the Corporation Commission and moved all such regulations away from cities, towns, counties to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Not only did this move undermine the ability of municipalities to protect its citizens and their property, it firmly solidified the jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission, historically the favorite lapdog of the oil and gas industry, and pre-empted local control on most issues.
Now, it seems that the oil and gas industry wants to totally extinguish the ability of local government to have any say in protecting houses, businesses and other property values. The current legislation, HB 2150, would require municipalities and counties to compensate oil and gas business interests for any regulation or restriction that may limit oil and gas operations, even if the restrictions are intended to benefit the health and safety of the community.
The bill would punish cities, towns and communities for trying to protect citizens from pollution and is an attempt to scare municipalities away from passing any ordinance that might impact oil and gas.
HB 2150 is an overreach of state authority over local city and county governments and is further evidence that “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
– Chickasha Democrat David Perryman represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House and serves as minority floor leader