Oklahoma’s Stitt Responds to Supreme Court Ruling with New Commission

Oklahoma’s Stitt Responds to Supreme Court Ruling with New Commission

The U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling ratified victory for Native American lands, and at the same time, injected uncertainty into Oklahoma’s energy community. Attempting to appeal to all parties, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt issued Executive Order 2020-24 introducing the Oklahoma Commission  on Cooperative Sovereignty.

Resulting from the ruling on July 9, 2020, a large portion of land occupying eastern Oklahoma is deemed Native American property of the Five Civilized Trials. Consequently, an understanding of titles to land and leases has been left dubious at best. This has potentially halted the energy community’s future plans and proposals in the state’s Rogers County Project. The commission will hear from leaders of the Oklahoma economy, local communities and the public to ensure that its recommendations are responsive to the needs of Oklahomans.

What is the commission’s main focus?

The newly formed commission is tasked with advising the Governor on civil, criminal and regulatory concerns. It will serve as a platform to hear from state leaders in the economy, local communities and the public to ensure its recommendations are inclusive of all Oklahoma citizens needs.

“While I appreciate the enthusiasm to rush into agreements, it’s vital that our next steps be thoughtful and informed,” said Governor Stitt. “The Commission provides all Oklahomians with a central platform to help determine what those next steps might be.”

Commission makeup

Governor Stitt has appointed Larry Nichols, co-founder of Oklahoma based Devon Energy, as the commission’s chairman. The remaining members include:

  1. U.S. Senator Don Nickles
  2. Former U.S. Representative J.C. Watts
  3. Oklahoma Senator Julie Daniels
  4. Oklahoma Representative Mark Lepak
  5. Alan Armstrong
  6. Brent Bolen
  7. Suzie Brewster
  8. Harold Hamm
  9. Joe Robson

Additional members could potentially include:

  1. A representative of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office
  2. A member of the District Attorneys Council 
  3. Representative of Oklahoma’s federally recognized Indian Tribes.

Energy sector’s new path in Eastern Oklahoma

The recent Supreme Court ruling has left the energy companies stunned and in search of acceptable recourse due to almost certain additional costs and potential environmental hurdles. The decision has now provided the Five Tribes an authoritative voice concerning oil and gas wells, refineries and pipelines. Their newly enacted pipeline authority includes those systems spanning to the Keystone XL Cushing hub.

“The reality is that there’s something potentially that could be very detrimental to the oil and gas industry,” said Dewey Bartlett with Keener Oil and Gas Company.

COVID-19 and the decline of oil prices has had a crushing effect on Oklahoma  producers. Now those additional costs on the horizon have added to the trepidation of conducting business in Oklahoma, but federal regulation is weighing heavily on their minds.

“One of the things we were concerned about in the McGirt aftermath is that we, being Oklahoma producers, would lose the source of regulation from one place, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and start getting regulated by someone from Washington,” said Robert Sullivan Jr., an independent Tulsa-based oil producer.

For now, energy companies will have to brainstorm and identify potential impact from the high court’s ruling. From there, they must submit a Notice of Potential Impact by August 28, 2020 to the commission and then follow with a  more detailed Report of Potential Impact by September 30, 2020. The members of Governor Stitt’s commission will then review the information and offer insight.

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. In addition to providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]

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