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Brian Bingman
Brian Bingman, GOP candidate for Oklahoma Corporation Commission, answers questions next to a picture of Incumbent Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, who chose not to attend the debate Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (Josh McBee)
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Incumbent Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony did not attend a Republican runoff-primary debate Tuesday evening in Oklahoma City. His GOP runoff opponent, Brian Bingman, answered questions alongside a framed picture of Anthony and described the 30-year incumbent’s absence as “disappointing.”

“I think it may be a little arrogant,” Bingman said when asked about Anthony’s decision not to attend. “The last four or five events that I attended, he has not attended.”

Anthony, 70, was first elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in 1988.

Bingman, 64, served in the Oklahoma Senate from 2006 to 2016, vacating the leadership position of pro tempore owing to term limits. He answered questions Tuesday evening at City Presbyterian Church as part of a debate night co-hosted by NonDoc. Democratic Corporation Commission candidates Ashley Nicole McCray and Blake Cummings debated first, with Bingman’s remarks following.

A former mayor of Sapulpa, Bingman said Tuesday night that he has also spent 40 years in the oil and gas industry.

“They bring a lot of capital to the state of Oklahoma,” Bingman said of energy interests that appear before the Corporation Commission. “And if they can’t use that capital timely then they’re going to go to other areas.”

Bingman received 38.4 percent of the popular vote to Anthony’s 47.1 in the June primary election. Tuesday, Bingman said the Corporation Commission needs updated technology and increased efficiencies for the sake of Oklahoma businesses and consumers.

“Don’t string [companies] out,” Bingman said. “That’s more cost on them which then they pass onto the consumer. I think there’s a lot of efficiencies we need to look at. A lot of new technology that is lacking at the commission. There’s no reason that we can’t have real-time numbers.”

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Bingman responded to questions about the Corporation Commission’s handling of the proposed Wind Catcher project, which would have invested billions of dollars to build the nation’s second-largest wind power energy facility in Oklahoma’s panhandle. The project’s proposer, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, withdrew its framework after an adverse ruling by Texas regulators.

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission did not make a decision,” Bingman said. “Me personally, I think it’s very important to have a commissioner who does not have an agenda and does not have a predetermined outcome for a case before you hear all the facts.”

Bingman did not specify whether he supported Wind Catcher, saying he was not in the courtroom and could not make an informed decision.

Bingman: ‘I can make very good, technical decisions’

Answering a half-dozen questions from journalists who initially joked about whether Anthony’s photo would like to chime in, Bingman discussed the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, saying the Corporation Commission needed more geological data to find wells responsible for earthquakes.

“I think we have to be careful saying a blanket ‘no-more-disposal-wells in Oklahoma’ because the energy industry provides more jobs and the economic opportunity for this state to move forward,” Bingman said. “(The commission) can make better decisions (….) When an earthquake occurs, they know where the wells are and can identify them and take immediate action.”

Bingman defended his ties to the oil and gas industry, saying his experience will aid him in making informed decisions.

“I will leave Uplands Resources when I’m elected to the commission,” Bingman said. “With that expertise (and) my legislative experience, I think I can make very good, technical decisions.”

Regarding oil and gas issues, vertical and horizontal oil drillers have come into conflict over the past several years, with horizontally drilled wells affecting some vertical wells. Bingman described the issue as a “huge concern in the industry.”

“What I don’t want to see is a small operator have to go to court for damages against a larger company,” he said. “I want to get the vertical well operators and the horizontal well operators together and that’s something, with my background, I can facilitate.”

Like his Democratic counterparts who debated earlier Tuesday evening, Bingman supports expanding the number of corporation commissioners from three to at least five. He noted that quorum rules under Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act prevent the three members of the commission from talking to each other outside public meetings, something he called problematic.

“Currently our commissioner, who elected not to be here, somebody has been in office 30 years and may be a little complacent at times,” Bingman said in his closing remarks. “I think you’re looking for someone with new energy, new ideas, a new set of eyes at the commission.”

Tuesday night’s debates were held with non-partisan partners Let’s Fix This and Generation Citizen, and they were sponsored by McSpadden Milner & Robinson, OG&E, OK Wind Power, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association.

Bingman arrived as the evening began, watching Democratic corporation commissioner candidates Ashley Nicole McCray and Blake Cummings debate before him. Both McCray and Cummings stayed for Bingman’s portion of the evening as well.

The GOP portion of the debate night can be viewed in the Facebook video below: