Citing falling oil prices and their adverse impact on the Oklahoma economy, Governor Frank Keating and legislative leaders have appointed a special task force to explore alternatives for saving jobs in the beleaguered energy industry.
"Oklahoma's oil industry is in a desperate situation and the quicker we get together and begin working on solutions the better. This task force will help formulate strategy and hopefully, solutions to the various problems that currently plague the oil industry. We simply cannot afford any additional lost jobs within this vital Oklahoma industry," said Governor Keating.
"We must do everything in our power to help an industry that is such a vital component of our economy," said House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick. "Oil and gas still contribute millions of dollars in taxes and income to this state."
"The quicker the task force can get to work, the better for the oil industry and the Oklahoma economy. We have to move swiftly because each day of delay is another job lost or another well abandoned," said Senator President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore.
The state leaders are responding to an unprecedented decline in Oklahoma oil prices. The price of crude has hovered around the $12 per barrel mark for the past seven months, threatening oil field jobs and tax revenues dependent on crude production. If the current slump continues, energy industry leaders estimate that tens of thousands of wells will have to be abandoned.
"We can't afford to lose any more jobs in the oil patch. If we don't do something to stop the bleeding there, we'll be contributing to the slow death of an industry that is vital to our economic future," said Senator Taylor and Speaker Benson.
The task force will consist of 11 members. It will be charged with identifying potential relief measures and drafting appropriate legislation.
The Senate appointees include Senator Kevin Easley, D-Broken Arrow, Senator Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City, and Senator Mark Snyder, R-Edmond.
The House appointees are Representative Larry Rice, D-Pryor , Representative Bill Settle, D-Muskogee, Representative Don Kinnamon, D-Stroud, Representative Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City and Representative Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland.
Governor Keating has appointed to Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Mike Smith, Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode and Secretary of State Tom Cole.
Senator Easley, Rep. Rice and Commissioner Bode will act as co-chairs of the panel.