It appears Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC) has decided to make fracking-related earthquakes central to his campaign for Corporation Commissioner of America’s quake capital. The term-limited New Hampshire native was featured prominently in a press release Tuesday from Democratic caucus media director Mike Ray. In the release, Morrissette essentially warns of more earthquakes to come as oil prices rise.
That’s not the first time Morrissette has voiced concerns over Oklahoma’s earthquakes: In early January, the long-time public defender criticized the OCC for its response to recommendations that wastewater disposal wells reduce their volume in the wake of 4.3 and a 4.2 magnitude earthquakes between Christmas and the New Year.
The quakes were in and around Edmond, and he told KOKH Fox 25 at the time:
That criticism came a little less than two months before he formally announced his candidacy.
The day before Tuesday’s press release made the rounds, Morrissette appeared on KOCO with more criticism and doubt for the OCC and its data regarding reductions in seismic activity. He also managed to plug an upcoming public forum that will feature discussion about alternatives to disposal wells. That event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon June 14 in the House chamber at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, OCC incumbent Dana Murphy praised the passage of HB 3158 on her blog in mid-April. That bill, specifically designed to address energy-related seismicity and of which Morrissette is listed as co-author, clarified and codified OCC’s ability to make emergency actions without first holding hearings. In turn, it makes Morrissette’s “just covering their tail” criticisms more unlikely in the future, now that the OCC has a broader and clearer authority to mitigate drilling-related quakes.
Further, as outlined in Morrissette’s press release, the likelihood of greater drilling volumes increases in line with the price of oil. If $50 per barrel prices are sustained for 30 days or more, at least one energy company (Continental Resources) will seek to increase its volumes, according to a Journal Record article cited in Morrissette’s press release. Oil closed slightly above $50 for the second day in a row Tuesday.
Here’s the potential rub: A continued upward trend combined with concurrent earthquakes could provide the perfect storm (perfect shake?) necessary for Murphy and the OCC to act on their newly realized powers with regard to hindering drilling activity, thus creating a scenario where she emerges as a hero on the back of legislation her political opponent helped create.
Ironic, don’tcha think?
Also, Murphy’s campaign has raised over half a million dollars in its bid for a subsequent six-year term and almost another $20,000 as of May 17, so Morrissette will need to maintain his deft TV visibility and come up with some more catchy soundbites if he’s to have a fighting chance come November, regardless of any perfect shakes.
Morrisette’s campaign committee has yet to file fundraising reports. The next deadline is set for June 20, according to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission reporting system.
Previous ‘pressed releases’
Meowapalooza, rain barrels & fishin’ — 6/2/16