Citing conflicting statements from Governor Frank Keating, the leader of the Oklahoma Senate is asking for a clear, public statement from the Governor, reiterating his unqualified support for a one-year moratorium on new hog operations.
"We're trying to do everything we can to protect Oklahoma's environment, but it isn't easy when Governor Keating is sending mixed messages about whether or not he supports a hog moratorium. This is too important of an issue to waffle on. I think it's crucial that he tell the people whether he supports the moratorium or opposes it. Sitting on the fence is not an option," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate.
On February 18th, Governor Keating, Senator Taylor and House Speaker Loyd Benson announced agreement on the moratorium and the specific language of HJR 1093, with all issuing strong statements in support of the legislation. However, in a letter to a hog farmer dated February 25th, the Governor disavowed any strong support of the moratorium, indicating that it was a Democratic idea that he had supposedly attempted to fight.
"I thought we were working hand in hand in a bipartisan manner on the hog moratorium , but apparently Governor Keating has a different interpretation of events. According to the Governor's letter, legislative Democrats had to twist his arm to get him to even consider a moratorium. I didn't realize we were dragging him along, kicking and screaming, to protect the environment," said Senator Taylor.
The Senate leader made it clear that he preferred to keep the moratorium in its current form and would resist efforts to lessen its impact.
"If the Governor has concerns, I'm willing to look at them, but I'm not going to water down the moratorium. I hope Governor Keating will join me in supporting the legislation, but obviously he has to make up his own mind on this issue," noted Senator Taylor.
In light of the conflicting messages from the Governor's office, the Senate leader said it is important for Governor Keating to step forward publicly and either declare his unqualified support for the moratorium as he did on February 18th or justify any changes he now wants.
"I certainly think the people of Oklahoma deserve to know where the Governor really stands on the hog moratorium. If there's a logical explanation for the conflicting statements, Governor Keating can certainly clear up any misunderstanding by clearly stating whether he is for or against the moratorium," said Senator Taylor.
The moratorium has been approved by the House and a Senate committee, and is currently awaiting action from the full Senate. The Senate is prepared to take final action on the measure, but Senator Taylor said he hopes to get a clear direction from Governor Keating first.
"I want to send the Governor something he can enthusiastically embrace, not something he grudgingly supports because he's worried about political fallout from hog producers. At the same time, I don't want to get in a game of watering down the moratorium.
"I'm confident the vast majority of Oklahomans support our push for a moratorium. We need to send a strong signal that we won't stand for pollution in Oklahoma and I think the moratorium sends that signal. I think it's important for Governor Keating to be on our side if he can," said Senator Taylor.