Drew Edmonson, Oklahoma attorney general who is running for governor on the Democratic ticket, said Tuesday on a visit to Your TIMES that he will be looking into the disposal of saltwater waste from natural gas wells in Arkansas into a well in Vian, and also at the disposal of other drilling wastes in Oklahoma.
I-Mac Petroleum Services Inc. of Muskogee has applied for a license to dispose of saltwater from natural gas drilling in Arkansas in a proposed well in Vian, a proposal opposed by Vian and other area residents. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has recommended the license be granted, but the opposition has appealed that recommendation. The appeal has yet to be heard.
The number of proposed saltwater disposal wells, along with the disposal of mud and waste from other energy drilling, has increased in Oklahoma since Arkansas put a moratorium on such waste dumping in that state.
Edmondson said he had been alerted by Sinclair Armstrong of Vian to the problem, but wasn’t aware the waste dumping was so widespread in Oklahoma.
“I don’t have an answer yet” to the waste dumping, Edmondson said, adding he would investigate it. “We’ll get on it. But our (attorney general’s) environmental unit is down to skeletal right now.”
That is because of Edmondson’s continuing fight to keep poultry waste from Arkansas out of the Illinois River and downstream in Lake Tenkiller and the lower Illinois River. In 2005, Edmondson, on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, filed suit against more than a dozen poultry companies. The lawsuit, which was filed after years of negotiations, accuses the companies of creating runoff into the Illinois River Watershed as a result of their waste disposal practices.
Edmondson said, “Water is a precious resource, too precious to waste.”
He said he hopes, as governor, to continue that battle, seeking injunctive relief at the present time, and appealing two rulings against the state’s case. He said he has already spoken to another gubernatorial candidate about continuing the battle for a clean Illinois River, and hopes the state’s new governor — himself or another — will continue the battle.
“If I am governor we will continue the appeals,” Edmondson said, adding, “Gov. Henry has been very supportive, very helpful.”
Edmondson said the biggest battle facing the state is the lack of money.
“We don’t have any money,” he commented. “We want to lay some groundwork for reforms in the future. It may not be this year, or even in 2011, not until 2012.”
Edmondson said he will run his campaign upon his accomplishments as attorney general.
Edmondson was elected attorney general in 1994, and was re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006. He served as the 2002-3 president of the National Association of Attorneys General. In 1996, he filed suit against the tobacco industry resulting in a $2 billion settlement between the industry and Oklahoma. Edmondson was one of eight attorneys general asked to serve on the negotiating team for the states.
Edmondson set up a trust with the settlement, which continues to fund anti-tobacco education in Oklahoma.
“We had $21 million in interest this year and expect $30 million next year,” Edmondson said. He explained, “The voters passed a constitutional amendment to protect that trust.”
Even with the state in financial distress at the present time, the trust cannot be touched.
“I’m very proud of that,” Edmondson said, but speaking about the state’s finances and the next governor, he added, “It’s going to be a tough start for whoever gets elected in 2011.”
Other accomplishments Edmondson said he is proud of are reform of the death penalty appeals process, establishing victims’ services and representing rate payers in telephone, gas and electric rate cases.
As governor, Edmondson said he hoped to sell the quality of life in Oklahoma to prospective businesses and industries, creating jobs for Oklahomans. He pointed out Sequoyah County‘s attractions, which include good schools, Lake Tenkiller, Interstate 40, and an international airport in Tulsa, just 90 minutes away.
Edmondson said he has high hopes for his campaign, and polls show he is ahead of his fellow Democratic candidates. Edmondson added his fundraising efforts are also producing results. Reports filed with the state Ethics Commission indicate Edmondson has raised $357,428 and has $910,435 on hand. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, also running for governor as a Democrat, reported she has raised $263,819 and has $492,290 on hand. The reports were for the fourth quarter of 2009.
Before his election as attorney general, Edmondson was elected to three consecutive terms as Muskogee County district attorney. He served as president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association and was selected as Outstanding District Attorney for the State of Oklahoma in 1985 and the Outstanding Death Penalty Prosecutor in the 9th and 10th Circuits.
Edmondson served one term in the Oklahoma Legislature before entering the University of Tulsa School of Law in 1976. His undergraduate teaching degree is from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, which he attended after graduating from Muskogee Central High School.
Edmondson is a Navy veteran with a tour of duty in Vietnam. He is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Party.
His wife, Linda, is a medical social worker. They have two children. Mary is a lawyer. She is married to lawyer Mike Ross of Arlington, Va. They have two children, Andrew Edmondson Ross and Catherine Kay Ross, who were both born in November 2008. The Edmondson’s son Robert is a college professor with a doctorate in cultural anthropology. He is married to Andrea Hamor Edmondson, a sexual violence prevention coordinator. Robert and Andrea live in Oklahoma City.