Eastern Oklahoma Coal Mining Comeback Stalls as Demand From China Falls

Steel Plant, Anshan, Liaoning, China, February 2009.

Sonya Song / Flickr

Steel Plant, Anshan, Liaoning, China, February 2009.

In May of last year, it looked like impoverished areas of eastern Oklahoma would be getting a lifeline. Coal mining, once a vital industry there, appeared to be headed for a comeback thanks to booming international demand.

Local residents were excited about the prospect of hundreds of new jobs when StateImpact first visited Heavener, but the mining project has stalled.

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Debate About Competition and Cost at Senate Panel on Wind Incentives

Frank Robson, a wind farm opponent and property developer from Claremore, Okla., at an Oct. 21 Senate hearing on tax incentives for the wind industry.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Frank Robson, a wind farm opponent and property developer from Claremore, Okla., at an Oct. 21 Senate hearing on tax incentives for the wind industry.

Members of the state Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on Tuesday from the wind industry and a representative of a group of property owners pushing for stricter regulation of wind farms.

The Senate study centered on the cost-benefit of tax credits and incentives used by the wind industry. Supporters said Oklahoma’s incentives attract projects that might otherwise be built in other states with similar wind potential, including sites in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. Continue Reading

“Turbine Turmoil: Landowners Still Worried About Wind Farm Effects”

A second public hearing on what role the Corporation Commission should have in regulating the wind energy industry was held Oct. 15, and included discussions about “siting, landowner notification and decommissioning,” the Journal Record reports.


However, the meetings aren’t designed to create rules. The study sessions are intended to establish recommended guidelines for statutes should the Legislature give the OCC authority over wind farms. The agency has authority to establish decommission policies when wind farms are retired. Tonya Hinex-Ford, energy coordinator for the OCC Public Utilities Division, said that based on submitted comments, people disagree on whether the agency should have more or less power for turbine siting. In addition, many who spoke were concerned about how utility-scale wind farms would affect wildlife and potential health effects from noise. Some residents previously told the OCC about flickering shadows inside homes caused by turbines’ spinning blades.

Read more at: journalrecord.com

“Oklahoma Water Officials Try To Keep Conservation Active”

All the recent wet weather could lead some to think water conservation isn’t as necessary as it was at the peak of the drought, but state water experts are working make conservation a higher priority in the minds of Oklahomans. That includes encouraging water reuse and making conservation a year-round proposition.


Oklahoma’s water supply is more than adequate to meet the state’s immediate needs, Oklahoma Water Resources Board executive director J.D. Strong told lawmakers Tuesday. That abundance can make it difficult to convince some water users of the importance of conserving water to prepare for a drier future, he said.

Read more at: newsok.com

Rumbles of New Scrutiny as Quakes Continue to Surge in Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin and Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, talk to reporters at the Governor's Energy Conference in 2014.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin and Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, talk to reporters at the Governor's Energy Conference in 2014.

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge and possible links to oil and gas activity have been studied in scientific papers, discussed at heated town-hall meetings and explored regulatory hearings.

The quakes are now triggering some rumblings at the state Capitol.

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Legislature Studies Red Cedar Threat and Creative Ways To Fight Its Spread

Homeowner Larry Huff holds a shard of Eastern Red Cedar, the handiwork of an Oklahoma County program that clears the flammable tree from private property.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Homeowner Larry Huff holds a shard of Eastern Red Cedar, the handiwork of an Oklahoma County program that clears the flammable tree from private property.

The eastern red cedar tree’s bad reputation for fueling wildfires, hogging water, and disrupting ecosystems in Oklahoma is drawing the attention of state lawmakers, but so are ways to put the tree to use, like to help fight cancer. Continue Reading

Three Reasons to Care That Oklahoma is No. 1 in Gypsum: Twinkies, Beer, Roads

Gypsum embedded in the landscape at Gloss Mountain State Park in Major County.

Chip Smith / Flickr

Gypsum embedded in the landscape at Gloss Mountain State Park in Major County.

Here’s what seems like a mundane factoid about the Sooner State: Oklahoma leads the nation in gypsum mining.

Mildly interesting, right? Actually, it’s fascinating, as The Oklahoman‘s Mike Coppock explains:

The next time you bite down on a Twinkie, know there is a good chance part of it was mined out of a mesa south of Little Sahara State Park.

The same goes for the beer you may order at Bricktown or the loaf of bread you buy at the grocery store.

Oklahoma not only leads the nation in gypsum mining, but gypsum in Oklahoma is so pure that it is used as a calcium additive for foods we take for granted and in common medications.

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“Map: Which States Get Hurt Most by Plummeting Oil Prices?”

The price plunge poses economic risks for states that are particularly dependent on oil drilling — particularly Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, and Texas.


Here’s the bottom line: “[F]alling oil prices would cause overall employment losses in Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, and New Mexico, with the greatest percentage losses in the first three.” This sort of boom and bust is hardly unprecedented. Between 1979 and 1982, global oil prices increased tenfold thanks to decreased output after the Iranian Revolution. Texas, a major oil-producing state, benefitted hugely — growing at a torrid 7.5 percent annual rate during that time. But then prices crashed in 1982, and Texas’ economy crashed along with it, falling into a deep two-year recession.

Read more at: www.vox.com

How a Wind Farm is Helping Save the Family Farm in Western Oklahoma

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.

In the ongoing debate about Oklahoma’s wind industry and whether it needs stricter regulation, two types of property owners have been the most vocal: those who hate the idea of turbines next door, and those eager to lease land to a wind company.

But there’s a voice that’s been largely absent from the discussion so far: Landowners who have wind farms and like them.

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