OKLAHOMA CITY/WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – Facing a backlash over the side effects of its oil and gas boom, Oklahoma is poised to overturn an 80-year-old statute that allows cities and towns to ban drilling operations within their borders.
The legislation, now being finalised, would help insulate energy companies from local movements that have grown in response to the rapid expansion of oil and gas drilling and a dramatic spike in earthquakes across the central state.
Oklahoma now sees 600 times more tremors than it did before 2008, a surge seismologists say is linked to vast amounts of wastewater injected into the ground as a result of drilling for oil and from hydraulic fracturing - a process to extract natural gas that is also known as fracking.
The bill was championed by energy companies, which contend that local interference in drilling practices would endanger the production bonanza that has boosted their profits and brought the United States within sight of energy independence.
Opponents say the bill severely restricts the right of local communities to protect themselves from the earthquakes and drilling operations that encroach on residential areas.
The move by Oklahoma's Republican-majority legislature follows a similar law signed on Monday by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in response to a fracking ban passed by one municipality.
In April, the state-run Oklahoma Geological Survey said the rise in tremors is "very likely" linked to injection of wastewater into disposal wells.
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