Outside activists threatening energy industry: CEA

Well-funded, out-of-state activists are threatening Oklahoma’s oil and gas resources and pipeline network, a consumer energy group warned in a recent report, CNHI News Service reported.

Consumer Energy Alliance officials said the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Food & Water Watch have operations in Oklahoma or members who are working to halt production in the state.

Oklahoma a batleground

“They’re bringing together Native American issues with energy development, and they really view the state of Oklahoma as a key battleground state in their fight against the fossil fuel industry,” Wyatt Boutwell, a vice president with the Houston-based nonprofit and Oklahoma state director, told CNHI.

Not only is the industry vital to Oklahoma’s economic and cultural heritage, it’s also home to a substantial pipeline network that flows into a key hub in Cushing, he said.

While acknowledging no major upswing in anti-oil and gas lobbying in the halls of the Oklahoma Capitol, he said environmental groups are building and mobilizing grassroots support in communities across Oklahoma.

Building from the bottom up

“You build your constituent group and build your foundation before you go out and push for a particular point of view or your agenda,” Boutwell said. “Just because you don’t see it now (at the Capitol), doesn’t mean you won’t.”

In an email, spokeswoman Jorja Rose told CNHI Food & Water Watch is fighting fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure nationwide. It opposes the “destructive development” everywhere, including Oklahoma, she said.

“Front-line communities bear the brunt of the impacts of leaks, spills and inevitable air and water pollution from such oil and gas endeavors,” said Rose. “Meanwhile, big oil and gas continue to enjoy massive tax breaks in Oklahoma, leaving communities without money for public services like health care and education,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we fight their greedy fossil fuel agenda, which deepens the climate catastrophe that is already burning and flooding this country from coast to coast, and dumping a record number of tornadoes on our state?”

Entwined with daily life

Chad Warmington, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, told CNHI the energy industry has long been entwined with daily life in Oklahoma, where most residents are largely comfortable with producers’ presence. The alliance represents roughly 1,300 companies and 3,000 individual members.

“I think Oklahomans, in general, get it,” he said. “It’s a pretty mutually beneficial relationship.”

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