Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

OK’s Largest Water Loan Goes to Norman to Fix Stressed, Stinky Treatment Plant

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

Melissa Megginson / Flickr

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board uses the state’s good credit to secure loans for communities and rural water districts that need help paying for expensive upgrades to their water systems.

And at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the board approved a $50.3 million loan to the Norman in what Joe Freeman, chief of OWRB’s financial assistance division, calls the “largest single loan request” it’s ever acted on.

The money will be used to expand capacity at Norman’s wastewater reclamation facility from 12 million gallons per day to 16 million.

Norman’s number of water and sewer connections have increased by more than 18 percent over the past decade, putting too much pressure on the current wastewater plant, leading to an unpleasant odor and consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Continue Reading

“Oklahoma House Passes Solar Surcharge Bill”

As small scale solar and wind power generation technology takes off, Oklahoma utility companies “want to get ahead” of a growing tend: Individual customers generating excess power and returning it to the grid. Senate Bill 1456 would allow utilities to charge a monthly fee to small generators. OG&E and PSO say there are infrastructure costs that need to be recovered, while opponents say it’s a money grab.

“This neither unfairly advantages or disadvantages a class of customers,” said PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford. “It levels the playing field where one customer class was subsidizing another.” Solar advocates and others said the bill protects utility profits by opening up another revenue stream for them. The number of OG&E and PSO customers who have distributed generation in Oklahoma is small, but the declining costs of solar panels and a federal tax credit could make the systems more attractive.

Read more at: newsok.com

Wind Power Projects Pick Up in Oklahoma, Despite Continued Tax Credit Uncertainty


amk713 / Flickr

A federal production tax credit on renewable energy production keeps expiring and getting renewed by Congress, creating a lot of uncertainty in the wind energy industry. Still, by the end of 2013, there were two new wind projects under construction in Oklahoma, and the national trend was toward wind.

As The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports, despite the tax credit being renewed at the beginning of 2013, it took a few months for the industry get going on new projects:

The pipeline of wind projects began to fill back up in the second half of 2013, and the year ended with more than 12,000 megawatts under construction across the country, the [American Wind Energy Association] said.

By the end of 2013, two wind projects were under construction in Oklahoma. Enel Green Power NA owns the 150-megawatt Origin wind farm planned for Murray and Carter counties in southern Oklahoma. TradeWind Energy Inc. started work on the 136-megawatt Mustang Run development in Osage County.

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Norman Mayor and Residents Question Use of City Drinking Water For Fracking


Tyler Ingram / Flickr

Many residents — and some members of the city council — didn’t know Norman’s drinking water is being used for hydraulic fracturing until The Journal Record broke the story in March about Texas-based driller Finley Resources tapping a fire hydrant near Franklin Road.

They had a chance to voice their concerns at a city council meeting April 8, and as The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports, Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal says she wants quick action to address the issue.

“We don’t really have guidelines in our ordinance that details how to deal with these bulk water meters,” Rosenthal said, “whether it is a developer using water for dust control on new construction sites (or) Girl Scout groups using them for car wash fundraisers.”

She said the city didn’t anticipate or develop policies to deal with high-volumn water sales for industrial operations such as drilling.

She said she asked the council’s finance and oversight committees to examine the bulk water rate structure, as well as the permitting process. The city might require future bulk water permits for drilling operations to be reviewed by the utility director and city manager, she said.

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“Oil Industry Rallies at Oklahoma State Capitol”

About 1,000 representatives from Oklahoma’s oil industry touted their economic impact — “2 million royalty owners, 31,000 companies and almost 400,000 workers” — and encouraged lawmakers to keep the lower, incentivized tax rates many energy companies have been paying.

“The state of Oklahoma cannot afford to raise taxes on this industry, because when you raise taxes on this industry, you take money out of the economic engine that’s funding schools, that’s funding road projects, that’s building medical facilities,” Cantrell said. Five lawmakers — Sens. Brian Bingman and Bryce Marlatt and Reps. Jeff Hickman, Leslie Osborn and John Trebilcock — expressed their support for the oil industry at Wednesday’s rally before the crowd went inside to lobby others.

Read more at: newsok.com

Conservative, Environmental and Green-Energy Groups Fighting Solar Surcharge Bill

An “unlikely” coalition of environmentalists, solar advocates and conservative groups are opposing a bill that would allow electric utilities to levy a surcharge on customers who install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.

“They aren’t exactly teaming up, ” but they’re all attacking Senate Bill 1456, authored by Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, has drawn the ire of an Arizona solar group called TUSK, which has fought utilities in that state and others over what they say are unnecessary barriers against rooftop solar. TUSK released a YouTube video on Tuesday deriding Turner’s support of the bill, which is backed by the major electric utilities in Oklahoma. (Turner’s office did not return a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.) The group also is distributing a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers from Barry Goldwater Jr., a former congressman and son of conservative icon Barry Goldwater. The younger Goldwater is co-chairman of TUSK.

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Cast-off State Parks Thrive Under Tribal Control, But Not Without Some Struggle

Rick Geisler, manager of Wah-Sha-She Park in Osage County, stands on the shore of Hula Lake.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Rick Geisler, manager of Wah-Sha-She Park in Osage County, stands on the shore of Hula Lake.

When budget cuts led the Oklahoma tourism department to find new homes for seven state parks in 2011, two of them went to Native American tribes. Both are open and doing well, but each has faced its own difficulties in the transition.

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OK Policy Poll: Voters Oppose Tax Incentives for Horizontal Drilling

Click here to read the full .pdf explaining the poll results.

Click here to read the full .pdf explaining the poll results.

A new poll shows 64 percent of Oklahoma voters oppose state tax incentives for horizontal drilling and support eliminating the incentive to pay for other government services.

Oklahoma levies a 7 percent tax on oil and gas production, but the horizontal drilling incentive lowers the rate to 1 percent for the first 48 months of production. The incentive expires in 2015, and some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing to make the reduced rate permanent.

The poll, commissioned by the the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a left-leaning think-tank that has argued for eliminating the tax incentive and against cutting severance taxes on oil and gas production, showed 64 percent support eliminating the tax incentive to provide more funding for education, public safety, highways and “other state needs.”

Only 7 percent of those surveyed supported eliminating the incentives to help offset a cut to the top income tax rate, OK Policy’s survey data show.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they support the horizontal drilling tax incentive, and 21 percent said Oklahoma should keep the incentive. Continue Reading

“Wind Power Sets Records on Oklahoma, Texas Electric Grids”

New projects and infrastructure upgrades fueled record wind-energy production on the regional grids that serve Oklahoma and Texas.

Wind power accounted for 7,202 megawatts of electricity March 18 in the Southwest Power Pool, the regional transmission organization that covers Oklahoma and parts of eight other states. That surpassed the previous record of 6,448 megawatts set in October. The data was compiled by the American Wind Energy Association. The Southwest Power Pool has 7,765 megawatts of wind capacity, so last month’s record meant the system used almost 93 percent of its wind generating capacity March 18.

Read more at: newsok.com

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