Oklahoma blocks local fracking bans

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill banning local ordinances against hydraulic fracturing or other oil and gas drilling operations. 

Fallin, a Republican, said the bill is meant to provide uniform state standards for oil and gas drilling rather than a mix of local rules. The state's three-person Oklahoma Corporation Commission is charged with regulating the state's oil industry.

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The oil and gas industry had pushed for the bill, the Associated Press reports, and Fallin signed it over the objections of municipalities and environmental groups in the state. 

The new law comes as Oklahoma deals with a sharp increase in small earthquakes that state seismologists have recently linked to drilling operations. In a statement, Fallin said state commissioners are best able to deal with the earthquake issue, not local governments and a "patch of regulations" on oil and gas drilling.

"Corporation Commissioners are elected by the people of Oklahoma to regulate the oil and gas industry," Fallin said in a Friday statement. "They are best equipped to make decisions about drilling and its affect on seismic activity, the environment and other sensitive issues. We need to let these experts do their jobs. The alternative is to pursue a patchwork of regulations that, in some cases, could arbitrarily ban energy exploration and damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers and largest taxpayers."

Oklahoma becomes the second state to block local fracking rules, after Texas instituted a law doing so last month. Lawmakers there passed a bill banning local fracking ordinances after voters in the city of Denton approved one last November. 

With the state law superseding the local ban, natural gas drilling resumed in Denton on Monday, the International Business Times reports.