Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

Water Board Member Also President of Group That’s Suing Water Board

Tom Buchanan (far left) and the rest of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board listening to a presenter at a meeting in October.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Tom Buchanan (far left) and the rest of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board listening to a presenter at a meeting in October.

Tom Buchanan is the vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. He’s also president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

And a water advocacy group say that’s a conflict of interest now that the Farm Bureau is suing the OWRB over the maximum annual yield of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.

On Friday, Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy released a statement calling for Buchanan’s resignation.

“Under Mr. Buchanan’s leadership, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau has filed suit against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, other state and federal agencies, several Oklahoma towns, and hundreds of individuals,” the group wrote. “We have to ask how he can serve on a board that he has in fact sued.”

But Buchanan tells The Journal Record‘s M. Scott Carter he represents agriculture and rural Oklahoma in both positions — the same interests in both places. So he doesn’t see any conflict of interest, especially since there’s no financial gain involved:

“Not only did I have to abstain from votes at the water board, but I had to abstain from votes at Farm Bureau,” he said. “Of course, that all transpired before I was president. I was a state board member of the Farm Bureau at that time.”

… Records from the OWRB confirm that Buchanan abstained from voting during the October 2013 discussion about the Farm Bureau’s lawsuit. Both those same records show that Buchanan actively participated in discussions about the issue, questioning OWRB staff … .

The Farm Bureau disagrees with the OWRB’s new rule about how much water can be pumped from the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer in south-central Oklahoma, an issue StateImpact has covered extensively.

The governor’s office has been reviewing the Buchanan situation since last week, but Fallin’s spokesman tells the paper no decision has been made yet.

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