And this legislative session, more than any other, our elected officials have shown they are completely beholden to these interests at the expense of Oklahoma citizens’ health, air and water quality and even jobs.
This legislative session, a bill passed extending and expanding tax breaks for profitable oil and gas companies conducting fracking in Oklahoma. Another bill — promoted by our utility companies and large out-of-state groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers — passed that will increase costs for consumers who install solar panels on their house. Our state’s budget reduced appropriations for the Department of Environmental Quality by 20 percent and then raided its revolving fund as well.
Additionally, wind energy was under attack this session. Frank C. Robson, a wealthy landowner and Walmart heir who does not want to look at wind turbines, used his money and influence to attempt to pass legislation that would have placed such severe regulations on the wind industry that all development would have ceased in Oklahoma. In contrast, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau fought all session for legislation that would have forbid any government body from enacting or enforcing any safeguards on farming and ranching in Oklahoma.
So what have we learned about our elected officials consistency?
Regulations are bad when large special interests don’t want them but good when they do. Tax breaks and incentives are good when they benefit the energy industry, but we should penalize consumers who attempt to become energy independent. And, most importantly, police and law and order are only good when they’re not policing industry and ensuring our environmental laws are being upheld.
It wasn’t always this way in Oklahoma.
Just last year, our Legislature managed to put aside partisan differences to enact good legislation for Oklahoma’s environment. Unfortunately, this year, common sense was trumped by big money and radical right ideology.
It’s easy for us, as citizens, to throw our hands in the air and give up. We don’t have the big money of the corporate lobbyists to fight back.
I urge each and every Oklahoman who cares about clean air and water and preserving our state so our children can enjoy an Oklahoma better than the one we have today to rise up. This election year, hold your elected officials accountable.
See what grade your representative and senator received at oklahoma2.sierraclub.org/legislative.
Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.
David Ocamb, a native Oklahoman, is the executive director and lobbyist for the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club.