Vot­ers’ choice

The Oklahoman - - BUSINESS - BY JACK MONEY Busi­ness Writer jmoney@ok­la­homan.com

Can­di­dates seek­ing the seat on Ok­la­homa’s Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion in Novem­ber’s gen­eral elec­tion present vot­ers with in­ter­est­ing choices.

Can­di­dates seek­ing the seat on Ok­la­homa’s Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion in Novem­ber’s gen­eral elec­tion present vot­ers with in­ter­est­ing choices.

In­cum­bent Com­mis­sioner Bob An­thony, Demo­cratic can­di­date Ash­ley Ni­cole McCray and In­de­pen­dent can­di­date Jackie Short bring their own his­to­ries and goals to the race.

An­thony, who has held the seat since 1989 and is run­ning for a fi­nal term, is proud of his track record in bat­tling cor­rup­tion and mak­ing sure con­sumers get a fair shake in mat­ters deal­ing with the util­i­ties that serve them.

McCray, an ac­tivist con­cerned with so­cial jus­tice and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, stepped onto a statewide stage in Fe­bru­ary when she and oth­ers un­furled a ban­ner declar­ing Ok­la­homa a state of de­spair at the end of Gov. Mary Fallin’s an­nual State of the State speech to Ok­la­homa’s Leg­is­la­ture and other top pub­lic of­fi­cials.

Short, an at­tor­ney, has spent a ca­reer rep­re­sent­ing Ok­la­homans who were im­pacted by en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and oil and gas com­pa­nies to help them com­ply with as­so­ci­ated reg­u­la­tions and rules. She is part of a group of five in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates seek­ing statewide of­fice who have pledged to work to­gether to make Ok­la­homa’s gov­ern­ment more open and ac­ces­si­ble to its res­i­dents.

An­thony’s le­gacy

Whether he wins re­elec­tion or not, An­thony will leave be­hind a re­mark­able le­gacy as a mem­ber of the three-mem­ber com­mis­sion.

He made a name for him­self with Ok­la­homans early on af­ter win­ning elec­tion to the job as the lone com­mis­sioner who op­posed a con­tro­ver­sial 1989 case be­fore the agency that in­volved South­west­ern Bell Tele­phone, to­day known as AT&T.

An­thony found him­self on the los­ing side of a 2-to-1 vote to ap­prove the deal. The FBI, with An­thony’s help, later charged an­other com­mis­sioner and an at­tor­ney who worked on be­half of the phone com­pany of bribery, lead­ing to crim­i­nal tri­als and con­vic­tions.

The fed­eral agency lauded An­thony for his help, but nu­mer­ous at­tempts made since to con­vince the com­mis­sion (with An­thony’s sup­port) to re­open the case haven’t been suc­cess­ful.

On his web­site, An­thony also states the com­mis­sion, with his help, has:

• Cre­ated jobs by keep­ing util­ity rates com­pet­i­tive, boost­ing util­ity re­li­a­bil­ity stan­dards, re­duc­ing busi­ness’ reg­u­la­tory bur­dens, dereg­u­lat­ing in­ter­state truck­ing, im­prov­ing rail­road and pipe­line safety and help­ing to roll out high-speed in­ter­net and en­hanced 911.

• Im­proved the com­mis­sion’s op­er­a­tions by seek­ing reg­u­lar per­for­mance, fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tional au­dits and by en­forc­ing tough ethics rules he up­dated while serv­ing as ad­min­is­tra­tor of the agency on a tem­po­rary ba­sis in 2016.

An­thony is on the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Reg­u­la­tory Util­ity Com­mis­sion­ers’ board of direc­tors and is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Petroleum Coun­cil. He also is a past pres­i­dent of the Mid-Amer­ica Reg­u­la­tory Con­fer­ence, a mem­ber and past pres­i­dent of the Eco­nomic Club of Ok­la­homa, and for eight years was a del­e­gate to the world­wide Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of the United Methodist Church.

An­thony said he’s been ask­ing vot­ers this year to stick with him.

“I am ask­ing vot­ers to be con­cerned about can­di­dates’ qualifications, and to con­sider their ethics, hon­esty and fair­ness,” An­thony said.

A call for change

McCray, an en­rolled mem­ber of the Ab­sen­tee Shawnee Tribe of Ok­la­homa, reg­u­larly has chal­lenged the sta­tus quo the past five years to ex­press con­cerns about so­cial jus­tice and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

McCray has earned a bach­e­lor’s in psy­chol­ogy, a mas­ter’s in his­tory and a mas­ter’s in the his­tory of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and medicine. As a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa, McCray was in­volved with var­i­ous ed­u­ca­tional sem­i­nars and events ad­dress­ing so­cial jus­tice is­sues for Na­tive Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing re­pro­duc­tive rights.

Her work there prompted OU’s His­tory of Sci­ence depart­ment to hire a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in race and dif­fer­ence, in­for­ma­tion pub­lished about her in a brochure for the univer­sity’s Take Root con­fer­ence in 2016 states.

She also played roles in suc­cess­fully con­vinc­ing the Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa’s stu­dent gov­ern­ment as­so­ci­a­tion and the city of Nor­man to ob­serve an In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day and worked with the city and its elected lead­ers to help it adopt res­o­lu­tions that move it to­ward fill­ing the gov­ern­ment’s elec­tri­cal power re­quire­ments en­tirely us­ing re­new­able en­ergy by 2035.

Also on the en­vi­ron­men­tal front, McCray founded #NoPlain­sPipeline, a group op­posed to the build­ing of the Plains All Amer­i­can Diamond Pipe­line (the pipe­line was built and started op­er­at­ing in De­cem­ber).

McCray par­tic­i­pated in the Pro­tect Our Pub­lic Lands Act Car­a­van to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in 2016, where she keynoted its cli­mate sum­mit and led a Clean En­ergy Rev­o­lu­tion march, her cam­paign web­site states.

McCray didn’t re­spond to an in­ter­view re­quest for this story.

But pre­vi­ously, she had said most peo­ple she had vis­ited with while cam­paign­ing for the seat aren’t sat­is­fied with the agency or the over­sight it pro­vides on pipe­lines, hy­draulic frac­tur­ing, salt­wa­ter dis­posal wells or re­new­able en­ergy is­sues.

Open­ness de­sired

Short is an Ok­la­homa City at­tor­ney spe­cial­iz­ing in en­vi­ron­men­tal law who says she re­cently be­came an In­de­pen­dent af­ter get­ting dis­gusted first with the Democrats and then Repub­li­cans.

She said she plans to spend the month lead­ing up to the elec­tion ask­ing vot­ers to embrace change.

“We are united that we want an open gov­ern­ment with open records and meet­ings, where ev­ery­thing is trans­par­ent,” Short said.“It seems that in the past, it has been hard to get in­for­ma­tion. I know that when I have done Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests, I feel like they have been stymied.”

Short earned a law de­gree from the Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa af­ter earn­ing lib­eral arts un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate de­grees at other state schools.

Hav­ing grown up on a farm in western Ok­la­homa, she said she un­der­stands the value of clean lands and wa­ters to Ok­la­homans.

“Dur­ing the first half of my ca­reer, I pretty much rep­re­sented landown­ers who had var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues” in­volv­ing con­tam­i­nated wa­ter, soil and air, Short said.

Then, she be­gan work­ing with oil and gas com­pa­nies to help them com­ply with en­vi­ron­men­tal rules, reg­u­la­tions and law.

“So, I know the is­sues on both sides” when it comes to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, Short said, adding she be­lieves she could help bring ad­ver­saries to­gether in a way that pro­tects res­i­dents while al­low­ing oil and gas com­pa­nies to prof­itably op­er­ate.

“In the grand scheme of things, there’s a mid­dle ground, a place they can meet that is good for the cit­i­zens and good for the com­pa­nies,” Short said.

Short said she isn’t tak­ing money from any com­pa­nies reg­u­lated by the com­mis­sion dur­ing this cam­paign, say­ing, “I want to make truly in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sions, based on the facts pre­sented to me.”

The Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sion staff and its three elected com­mis­sion­ers reg­u­late pub­lic util­i­ties, oil and gas drilling, pro­duc­tion and re­lated en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, safety as­pects of rail and pipe­line sys­tems and the en­vi­ron­men­tal in­tegrity of petroleum stor­age tank sys­tems.

The com­mis­sion­ers also en­force op­er­at­ing au­thor­ity and in­sur­ance re­quire­ments in­volv­ing the in­trastate trans­port of most com­modi­ties via trucks and in­volv­ing pas­sen­ger car­ri­ers, en­force reg­u­la­tions for un­der­ground in­jec­tion of wa­ter, chem­i­cals and cer­tain oil and gas waste flu­ids and over­see re­me­di­a­tion of soil and ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion caused by leak­ing petroleum stor­age tanks.

The gen­eral elec­tion is Nov. 6.

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED]

Ok­la­homa Cor­po­ra­tion Com­mis­sioner Bob An­thony speaks to a group of Repub­li­can women ear­lier this year. An­thony reg­u­larly ad­dresses groups about the com­mis­sion and its reg­u­la­tory du­ties.

Bob An­thony

Ash­ley Ni­cole McCray

Jackie Short

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