Oklahomans know how to deal with adversity. We overcame challenges on the Trail of Tears, during the Dust Bowl, through the Vietnamese refugee crisis, after the Murrah Building bombing, and in response to countless tornadoes.
Oklahomans will likewise triumph over the economic troubles facing state government and our people generally. It is simply in our self-reliant, problem-solving heritage.
We have seen opportunity where others have seen only quandaries and dilemmas. We have been creative, enterprising, imaginative and resourceful. Despite Oklahoma's current economic challenges, we have an incredible opportunity before us. The fact that we can't go on with "business as usual" forces us to reassess where we are, how we got here, and where we want to go.
In the year that's passed since taking office, I've seen first-hand at the Commission what happens when creativity and initiative are encouraged and people work together toward a common goal.
Case in point: horizontal drilling. This technique, in conjunction with other technologies, unlocks vast new reserves of natural gas production from shale and other formations, further develops our State's resources and creates well-paying jobs in Oklahoma. But it also raises critical questions not answered in our 20-year-old horizontal drilling rules. After a public hearing this summer to identify key issues, the Commission's Oil and Gas Division formed working groups of mineral owners, producers and staff who are already working on solutions for the benefit of all concerned.
At the same time, we are reimagining Oklahoma's contribution to the nation's energy resources. Without costly, burdensome government mandates, the Commission is working to fully develop Oklahoma's wind resources. Wind is clean and serves utilities as a winter hedge against higher natural gas prices. Paradoxically, wind also spurs gas production since natural-gas-fired generators are a perfect companion to wind power given the sporadic nature of wind.
Thinking outside the box, the Commission is engaged in new ways of regulating natural gas utilities to stop drastic price changes. Instead of looking at consumer natural gas rates only once in every five or 10 years, the Commission has now implemented a process by which the Staff will conduct thorough annual reviews that provide for better and more timely oversight of utilities' spending. This process also is a more efficient way for Staff to scrutinize utilities and provides for justified price changes to be implemented in a less burdensome way to ratepayers. Staff is looking at proposing similar systems for other utilities the Commission regulates.
In the past, we have sometimes been slow to change government processes to meet the challenges of new technology and have not restructured while business has reformed to confront economic challenges. But this has changed at the Commission as we look for ways to help consumers and businesses get more for their scarce dollars and for state government to do more with less money.
From the 300 meetings I've attended and the 12,000-miles I've traveled across the state this year, I believe Oklahomans are looking for these types of responses and action.