Thursday, May 21, 2009

Legislation Protecting Oklahoma’s Water Interests Passes House

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 20, 2009) – Legislation ensuring Oklahoma’s current and future water needs take precedence over any other considerations overwhelmingly passed the House today.

House Bill 1483, co-authored by Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, asserts Oklahoma’s claim to its waters under federal interstate compacts, which have been agreed to by the state of Oklahoma and its neighboring states and have been approved by Congress. It also further restates existing law providing legislative oversight pertaining to water decisions.

“This legislation protects Oklahomans and the water resources within our state,” said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. “Our neighboring states have agreed to our interstate compacts. This legislation asserts our claims in direct accordance with those compacts.”

The state of Oklahoma is currently being sued by Dallas and Tarrant County, Texas, who are seeking a water permit to access clean Oklahoma water. At issue is a current statewide moratorium on out-of-state water sales, which the lawsuit claims contradicts the federal Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The moratorium is set to expire this November, and the trial is currently on the docket for December.

“This bill helps us control our own destiny,” said Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman and author of the bill. “This bill is not about selling water; it is about protecting Oklahoma’s interests and taking care of our present and future water resources.”

The legislation passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 91-5 and returns to the Senate for final consideration.
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