No good deed goes unpunished… or so it seems. In an effort to protect the citizens of Pratt County from higher taxes due to the destruction of roads and bridges caused by heavy oilfield, gas and wind farm loads, county commissioners stirred up a hornet's nest.
The intent of the resolution was to prevent loads of 60,000 pounds or more from being driven over roads and bridges in the county causing destruction. The resolution would have allowed the county road supervisor to approve or disapprove routes being taken to oil, gas and wind farm sites in the county. Heavy loads have destroyed roads in adjoining counties, so the commissioners were looking to protect the taxpayers of Pratt County. However, the resolution may have been too vague and too restrictive for local contractors.
The first indication of a problem was a letter from John D. Beverlin II, an attorney with Stull & Beverlin LLC.
Beverlin wrote, "Our office was recently approached by a number of clients employed by the oil and gas industry in and around Pratt County regarding the recent adoption or review of a proposed resolution involving the permitting of overweight vehicles for use on county roads. Though the intent of this letter is not to take a public policy position on the necessity of such permitting, I am expressing the concern of several clients regarding the unworkability of the resolution."
The resolution is broad in its nature, applicable to all commercial activity outside an incorporated area in Pratt County, involving a vehicle weighing more than 60,000 pounds, according to Beverlin.
"The resolution as written, applies to well service contractors and wire line service providers who may make only one trip to any particular well site," wrote Beverlin. "Most often these contractors and service providers don't have the benefit of looking forward 15 days, for purposes of requesting a road use permit (a requirement of the resolution as passed). The resolution has the potential of crippling an entire industry that operates under the belief that time is money."
By targeting certain industries and exempting others, such as agriculture, the resolution is unfair in its applicability, according to Berverlin.
"To our knowledge, the county commission made no effort to seek the input of the oil and gas industry, which drives much of the growing economic development in Pratt County," wrote Beverlin. "Instead, the resolution exempts an entire industry that shares at least half of the blame for any road destruction. The resolution is not a 'break it, fix it' solution, but appears to be a tool for arbitrarily assigning blame."
About 20 oil, gas and wind farm executives showed up for the meeting to address their concerns to the commissioners. A lengthy discussion, which became aggressive and angry at times, centered on the lack of communication with oil, gas and wind farm officials in the development of the resolution.
Commission Chairman Joe Reynolds repeatedly said, "We're not trying to hurt anyone."
Schmisseur said the intent of the resolution was to try and discourage the destruction of roads and bridges by rogue operators in the county.
"The resolution was intentionally written vague," said County Counselor Robert Schmisseur. "We wanted to give the county some room to fuss if someone came in and created problems."
The resolution contained no penalties or fines, according to Schmisseur, but the county could go to the courts instead. It was to put something in place to deal with problems that might arise.
Ultimately, commissioners struck the resolution from the books and formed a committee to help Schmisseur write legislation that would work.
Committee members are: Road and Bridge Supervisor Randy Phillippi, Commissioner Glenna Borho, Terry Arnet representing crane operators, Ken Gates representing well services, Tracy Chambers representing water haulers, Jim Byers representing production, Gary Talbot representing drilling, Daniel Gamblin representing trucking and Dave Scott representing acidizing.