The Corporation Commission was established in 1907 by Article 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution, and the First Legislature gave the Commission authority to regulate public service corporations; defined as those businesses whose services are considered essential to the public welfare.
The legal principle for such regulation had been established in 1877 when the United States Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, Munn v. Illinois, that when a private company’s business affects the community at large, it becomes a public entity subject to state regulation.
Initially, the Corporation Commission regulated transportation and transmission companies, mostly railroads and telephone and telegraph companies. The Commission also collected and maintained records of the stockholders, officers and directors of all corporations chartered or licensed to do business in Oklahoma. This responsibility has since been allocated to the Oklahoma Secretary of
State and other state commissions and agencies according to business type.
The Second Legislature put oil pipelines under regulation. The Commission began regulating the prices of telephone calls in 1908 and telegrams in April 1912. Regulation of water, heat, light and power rates began in 1913.
The Commission began regulating oil and gas in 1914 when it restricted oil drilling and production in the Cushing and Healdton fields to prevent waste when production exceeded pipeline transport capacity. In 1915, the Legislature passed the Oil and Gas Conservation act. This expanded oil and gas regulation to include the protection of the rights of all parties entitled to share in the benefits of oil and gas production. Also in 1915, the Legislature declared cotton gins to be public utilities and extended Corporation Commission authority over utility companies to include practices as well as rates.
While the basic regulatory responsibility of the Corporation Commission has remained intact, many changes in state and federal laws have changed what is regulated. The Commission presently regulates public utilities, except those under municipal or federal jurisdiction or exempt from regulation; oil and gas drilling, production and environmental protection; various aspects of motor carrier, rail and pipeline transportation and the environmental integrity of petroleum storage tank systems.
The Corporation Commission also enforces federal regulations for underground injection of water and chemicals, underground disposal of certain oil and gas waste fluids and remediation of soil and groundwater pollution caused by leaking petroleum products storage tanks.
As of 2023, the agency’s responsibilities included overseeing:
· More than 2,300 2,447 Oil and gas well operators
· Approximately 200,000 active oil and gas wells
· More than 10,000 tanks containing motor fuel
· 46,000 Motor Fuel dispensers (i.e. “gas pumps”)
· More than 2800 retail fueling stations and their owners
· 250 Natural gas pipeline operators
· 30 Hazardous liquid pipeline operators operating over 40,000 miles of pipeline
· More than 7,400 for-hire and private motor carriers (including moving companies, limousines, taxi cabs, for-hire buses)
· Approximately 500 wrecker service operators performing non-consensual tows
· 7 Gas utility companies
· 8 Electric utility companies
· Approximately 60 commercial wind energy facilities
· 300 Telephone companies
· 5 Water companies
· 13 Cotton gins
Three Corporation Commissioners are elected by statewide vote to six-year terms. They have judicial,
legislative and administrative authority, ruling on and issuing orders regarding regulatory matters within Corporation Commission jurisdiction. Orders approved by the Commissioners are appealable only to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.