O’Donnell Bill Setting the Standard for Nationwide Utilities Legislation
Mike Seals - May 21, 2021 9:25 am
OKLAHOMA CITY – Other states are signing into law measures similar to one authored last year by House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, which gives local property and business owners the right to connect to any utility legally operating in their area.
Earlier this week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a similar measure into law and the state of Kansas approved the same legislation last month.
O’Donnell’s House Bill 3619 was signed into law last May. At the time, Oklahoma was only the third state to pass such a bill. Texas became the 16th as other states have followed Oklahoma’s lead.
“I authored this legislation because it protects private property rights and consumer choice and promotes free enterprise,” O’Donnell said. “This is particularly important in today’s climate, where some states are passing green energy laws that prohibit builders of new subdivisions or businesses from offering choices such as natural gas, instead dictating electric only. In Oklahoma, natural gas is a leading part of our economy, and I want to get ahead of any trend where local authorities might try to prohibit its use or limit consumer choice. I saw that this was going to be an issue, so in Oklahoma we were proactive in addressing it. I’m glad to see other states following suit.”
O’Donnell said the February major winter storm is a prime example of why choice should not be limited.
“If it had not been for natural gas, many Oklahomans would have been worse off during this storm,” O’Donnell said. “Additionally, the Biden administration has made it very clear that they are going to war against oil and natural gas. This is a war that would cripple economies and leave our citizens with either sky rocketing energy costs or, in some cases, without power. Not only does this protect private property owners from municipalities or counties instituting rules restricting energy choice, it pushes back against a federal government that has shown they have no interest in doing what is best for the citizens of our country.”
HB 3619 prevents a municipality or county from adopting ordinances, rules or codes that would restrict connections to utility providers that are legally operating in Oklahoma. The measure also prohibits discrimination in adoption of rules or codes against one or more utility providers based on the nature or source of the service provided – whether water, gas or electric.
“Oklahomans talk a lot about the best government being local,” O’Donnell said. “This bill is the ultimate in local control as it protects the homeowner or a business owner. It was important to me to protect the choice of the actual property owner.”