Alva Review-Courier -

Democrat Cummings campaigns for seat on OCC

 

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) is the public utility commission run by three statewide elected commissioners regulating oil and gas drilling, utilities and telephone companies. When elected, these commissioners serve a six-year term, and currently Republican Incumbent Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony is seeking his sixth and final term, having filled his position for 30 years.

The other two seats are held by Todd Hiett and Dana Murphy, both registered Republicans.

The regulatory agency has several campaigners vying for the open seat, and last Thursday Democratic candidate Blake Cummings stopped by Alva to share his vision on putting the power back in the hands of the people.

"I want to apply what I know in the industry, which is 30 years of experience, but I want to do it from the Democratic perspective," he said.

The native-Oklahoman hopes to pair his knowledge of the industry with one of the core tenets held by his political party: building an economy that lifts up all Americans, and not just those at the top. Cummings said he believes many decisions being made by the OCC are done on behalf of wealthy CEOs instead of the 3.9 million people who inhabit this state.

"We are seeing things happen that are being decided not by the people, but by a handful of wealthy elites," he said.

The candidate said that the Corporation Commission has been controlled by Republicans since 2008, and noted the many cuts in revenue that have contributed to major shortfalls in education and healthcare. Admitting those issues were outside the purview of the OCC, Cummings said this systemic move in state government is more to benefit large corporations, citing too much power has been given when a handful of wealthy elites try to own and operate their own state government. If elected, the democrat said he plans to help put a stop to that.

Cummings shared his stance on a few key topics important to Oklahomans.

Earthquakes

Initially denied by officials in the oil and gas industry, it is now a given that a direct link between earthquakes and drilling activities exists. Cummings said around 90 percent of quakes in Oklahoma are related to injection wells. The surge in seismic activity has spurred insurance companies to raise premiums and charge high deductibles to those looking for earthquake coverage.

Cummings said his plan, if elected, would be to propose a seismic bond, similar in nature to the bond oil/gas companies pay when drilling a new site. The "plugging bond" paid by an oil and gas company gives the commission access to funds if the drilling project isn't completed so the well can be safely plugged permanently. That principle is parallel to Cummings' proposed seismic bond. His plan is to use the bond money to create a fund for any property damage incurred by homeowners in the event an oil and gas company induces a quake by pumping too much fluid at too high pressure. This will prevent homeowners from paying high premiums and deductibles and puts the responsibility back into the hands of the oil and gas industry.

Wind and Solar Energy

A big proponent of alternative energy, Cummings said he would like to change the perception of Oklahoma being solely an "oil and gas state" to an "energy state," stating that after the last of the fossil fuels are gone, the wind is still going to blow and the sun is still going to shine. His belief is that in order to grow and prosper, wind and solar energy producers must share a level playing field by having the same incentives as oil and gas producers (production taxes based off energy output).

Utility Increases

In regards to rate increases, Cummings' emphasis was on providing fairness to Oklahomans. He said that utility companies should not ask for rate increases when the people of this state are having to tighten their belts, but instead tighten their belts as well.

"If you're paying your CEO a $30 million bonus at the end of the year for working great deals with the state, you need to check your budgets and quit asking us to pay for all that stuff," Cummings said.

Cummings is facing off with Democratic candidate Ashley McCray in the general election on Nov. 6. The winner of the two will then run against the winner of the Republican candidates. Those candidates are incumbent Bob Anthony and Brian Bingman.

 

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