Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Distributed Electricity Generation Bill

Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed Senate Bill 1456, a measure that would allow regulated electric utilities to charge customers who generate electricity from rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.

The bill allows utilities to create a new customer class, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports: Continue Reading

“Driller Uses 548,000 Gallons of Water for Norman Well”

The city’s utilities department received a number of calls from concerned residents after the paper reported that Texas-based drilling company Finley Resources had tapped a fire hydrant and was using drinking water to drill a well. Mayor Cindy Rosenthal has also asked city officials to look into the practice, the paper reports.

Brian Woodard, vice president of governmental affairs for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said he couldn’t specifically discuss Finley’s operations. In general, however, the oil and gas industry needs water sources for the drilling and hydraulic fracturing process. “While it may seem odd to tap into a fire hydrant, it is a very efficient use from a logistical standpoint,” he said. “That is minimizing truck traffic from hauling water the city wouldn’t otherwise want.” “While it may seem odd to tap into a fire hydrant, it is a very efficient use from a logistical standpoint,” he said. “That is minimizing truck traffic from hauling water the city wouldn’t otherwise want.”

Read more at: journalrecord.com

Why Regulators Are ‘Scratching Their Heads’ Over Northeast Oklahoma Coal Mine


Geoffrey Rhodes / Flickr

A new coal mining operation near Oologah Lake in northeast Oklahoma would disturb 11,000 feet of streambed and drain a pond in the Panther Creek watershed. But that’s not the problem.

The issue is over how to restore the damaged land after mining ends — and that depends on whose rules apply: the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’.

As The Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports, the owner of Vinita-based Phoenix Coal, Clay Hartley, is happy to comply with the rules — whosever they are:

[Hartley] submitted a plan to rebuild a pond and nearly 11,000 feet of streamed that would be disturbed by the work.

The DEQ, meanwhile, citing Army Corps rules, required Hartley to add an additional 20 percent, or 2,058 feet, of streamed, said Elena Jigoulina, of the DEQ Water Quality Division.

…Hartley said he had no issues with improving the land.

“We have good reclamation laws, requiring companies to put the land back better than it was before,” he said. “I like the laws. I have no trouble with that.”

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Solar and Wind Surcharge Bill Passes Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature

Rooftop Solar

Briankusler / Flickr

A rooftop solar panel installation.

A legislative measure that would allow electricity utilities to charge higher rates to customers who generate electricity with small solar installations or wind turbines has passed an Oklahoma House committee and now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

Senate Bill 1456, authored by Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, drew opposition from environmental groups and solar advocates. Existing generators like Herb Hill from Crescent, Okla., are exempt from the bill. But, if signed, the measure could impact future Herb Hills, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

… the 85-year-old utility company retiree has 36 solar panels and a 100-foot-tall wind turbine. He also has a propane-powered emergency generator to back up the electricity from his local electric cooperative. Continue Reading

“Federal Plan To Save Prairie Chickens Ruffles State Feathers”

In case you missed it, a great piece on a five-state plan to preserve the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the political and cultural impact of the U.S. government’s decision to formally list the species as “threatened.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt isn’t buying it. “For the Fish and Wildlife Service to come out and say, ‘Yes, we’re going to classify the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species, but we’re not going to change anything,’ seems to beg the question, then why did you take the step?” Pruitt says. He plans to sue to stop the listing but the real action is with the landowners. If they don’t agree to take payments to manage their properties in bird-friendly ways, the whole range-wide plan falls apart.

Read more at: www.npr.org

StateImpact and Partners’ Moore Tornado Coverage Honored With National Award

Lauren Gardner stands near a family members' house, which was destroyed by the May 20, 2013 tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lauren Gardner stands near a family members' house, which was destroyed by the May 20, 2013 tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla.

The Society of Professional Journalists on Wednesday honored reporters at StateImpact Oklahoma, KGOU and KOSU radio with its national Sigma Delta Chi award for collaborative breaking news coverage of the May 20, 2013 tornado. Continue Reading

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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