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Gov. Mary Fallin told oil and gas producers Tuesday that Environmental Protection Agency regulations are hurting the industry in Oklahoma and she would do everything she could to fight what many see as the agency's overbearing oversight of hydraulic fracturing of wells and regional haze.
"You have my commitment . . . to do everything I can to further cement Oklahoma's position as an energy leader," the Republican governor said during a speech at an energy conference at the University of Oklahoma.
Fallin told The Associated Press she's for "fair" and "reasonable" EPA regulations but fears the federal agency's current efforts will harm the oil and gas industry and the manufacturing sector in Oklahoma. She said she's working with Attorney General Scott Pruitt "to see what we need to do to let Oklahoma's voice be heard."
Pruitt has said he is considering legal action against the EPA over the regional haze regulations, which the federal agency has said are needed to control greenhouse gases from power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. EPA officials say the scientific consensus is that such gases cause global warming, although some in Congress -- most notably Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. -- have disputed that assertion.
Fallin said she has sent letters to the EPA and President Barack Obama's administration expressing her concern.
"We certainly want to protect the public from things that might harm the environment, but it has to be fair and balanced," she told the AP.
Those speaking at the conference included top officials from two prominent Oklahoma energy companies -- Larry Nichols, the co-founder and executive chairman of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp., and Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Enid-based Continental Resources Inc.
Nichols was particularly outspoken about critics of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a longtime drilling technique in which massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected underground to crack rock and force natural gas to the surface. Some environmentalists say the chemicals used in the process could contaminate ground water used for drinking. The EPA is studying the issue.
Hamm said a good U.S. energy policy would protect the industry by helping to build jobs and develop the technology needed to increase domestic oil and gas production.
The key aspect of such a policy, he said, would be "not to pick one fuel over another. Let the marketplace decide. . . . We are in a free-market society and certainly it will decide which fuel is the best. For far too many years, oil has been thrown under the bus . . . as being insignificant. Certainly it is not today."
Nichols also advocated competition among the oil, natural gas, coal and other fuel industries.
"Whichever one can deliver the consumers of this country the cheapest, most reliable, made-in-the-U.S. fuel, let them win," he said, "because that means we will be competitive around the world in being able to build plants and factories here, which we can't now, because we're driving our costs up so much."
University president David Boren, a former Democratic U.S. senator, said he often received criticism because of his stance supporting the oil and natural gas industry, but he made no apologies for it. Boren also supports the development of renewable sources of energy and the university he oversees will run entirely on wind energy by 2013.
"The kind of policy that will bring us energy independence, of course it needs to be comprehensive," Boren said. "Of course, there need to be incentives for all forms of energy production, including renewable energy production. But more than anything else, the government just needs to get out of the way of the domestic oil and gas industry and let them finish what they're doing so well."