Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Joe Wertz

Reporter

Joe Wertz is multi-platform reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma. He has previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., lives in Oklahoma City, and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.

  • Email: stateimpact@kgou.org
  • Twitter: @joewertz

Attorney Asks Oklahoma Supreme Court to Dismiss His Challenge to Oil and Gas Law

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenge laws in the past, comes out of a hearing room at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenge laws in the past, comes out of a hearing room at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.

An Oklahoma City attorney who challenged the constitutionality of a bill that changed the effective tax rate levied on oil and gas drillers asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday to dismiss his lawsuit.

From The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green:

Jerry Fent, of Oklahoma City, told the court that “upon further consideration and for the benefit of those herein and hereout” he was filing for the lawsuit to be dismissed, with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled. He said he still has a separate lawsuit pending against an income tax reduction measure.

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“Cities Prepare for Warm Climate Without Saying So”

The City of Tulsa “has been buying out homeowners and limiting development near the Arkansas River to help prevent flooding from severe storms,” and there are drought-minded efforts to push for more water conservation, the AP reports.


“The messaging needs to be more on being prepared and knowing we’re tending to have more extreme events,” said Graham Brannin, planning director in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Sen. James Inhofe — a global warming denier and author of a book labeling it “The Greatest Hoax” — once served as mayor. “The reasoning behind it doesn’t matter; let’s just get ready.” To be sure, flood control projects and other so-called resiliency measures were taking place long before anyone spoke of planetary warming. But the climate threat has added urgency and spurred creative new proposals, including ones to help people escape searing temperatures or to protect coastlines from surging tides, like artificial reefs. It’s also generated new sources of government funding.

Read more at: abcnews.go.com

Regulator Stepping Up Monitoring and Inspections of Disposal Wells in Quake Country

Austin Holland with the Oklahoma Geological Survey briefs Corporation Commissioners on new earthquake research.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Austin Holland with the Oklahoma Geological Survey briefs Corporation Commissioners on new earthquake research.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has stepped up monitoring and inspections of disposal wells in earthquake-prone regions of the state as regulators, scientists and energy companies gather new information on the links between earthquakes and oil and gas production.

Officials with the Corporation Commission — the state’s oil and gas regulator — are focusing on a small fraction of the roughly 12,000 injection wells where oil and gas waste is pumped deep underground, said the agency’s Tim Baker. Continue Reading

“Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Creates Seismic Activity Council”

At last week’s energy conference, Gov. Mary Fallin announced the formation of the group, which is “designed to help researchers, policymakers, regulators and the oil and natural gas industry study the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.


The coordinating council will include input from public sector groups like the Oklahoma Geologic Survey, the Corporation Commission, and the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board; research institutions including the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University; industry groups like the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association; and state legislators.

Read more at: newsok.com

On the Mountain Fork River, Environmental Protection Equals Economic Development

Eddie Brister, owner of the Beaver's Bend Fly Shop on the southern section of the Mountain Fork River.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Eddie Brister, owner of the Beaver's Bend Fly Shop on the southern section of the Mountain Fork River.

This is the final part of StateImpact Oklahoma’s series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part three is available here.

Eddie Brister knows how the stream warms and cools, and where the current rushes and eddies. He knows every pebble in the river, and he can spot a trout without even dipping his waders in the water.

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“Grand River Dam Authority Signs Contract for More Wind Generation in Oklahoma”

The GRDA has agreed to buy 100 megawatts from Apex Clean Energy’s Kay County wind project, which is expected to come online next year. The wind farm “is expected to generate about $53 million in local tax revenue and $48 million in local landowner payments during its lifetime,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies repors.


GRDA directors approved a 20-year contract with Apex Clean Energy Inc. for electricity from the project near Newkirk and Peckham. Kansas utility Westar Energy Inc. will take the other 200 megawatts from the 300-megawatt project. The wind farm is expected to be operational some time in 2015. Dan Sullivan, GRDA’s CEO and director of investments, said additional wind generation is a key part of the authority’s long-term generation planning. GRDA estimated the contract would save its customers about $50 million over the project’s lifetime.

Read more at: newsok.com

Source Eludes Investigators as Another Fish-Kill is Reported on Salt Fork River

A late-August fish-kill is the second die-off reported in the span of a month on the Salt Fork River in north-central Oklahoma.

Authorities were investigating the most recent fish-kill, reported on Aug. 25, as an analysis on water samples taken during the July fish-kill was returned from the state laboratory. The July samples showed elevated levels of aluminium, iron and manganese, says Skylar McElhaney, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Continue Reading

“Texas Proposes Tougher Rules on Wells After Quakes”

The oil and gas regulator in Texas is proposing “new rules that would require would-be operators to submit geological information in their permit applications and give the state the authority to take away permits when wells can be linked to earthquakes — a notable gesture by an agency run in large part by industry executives,” the Associated Press’ Emily Schmall reports.


The move comes as states grapple with how to respond to growing public anxieties over the risks from hydraulic fracturing — which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to free oil and gas — and the disposal of vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into so-called injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground.

Read more at: kxan.com

“Man-Made Earthquakes Are Proliferating, but We Won’t Admit Fault”

Interesting Newsweek piece Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm: “Humans have always had trouble understanding those aspects of existence that are monumental in scope. For most of our history, all larger-than-life natural phenomena have required the explanatory assistance of other equally larger-than-life forces.”


As seismologists scramble to understand these earthquakes, convincing the public—and the energy industry—that humans may be behind them has been nearly impossible. Hough brings up climate change as a comparison. Despite the fact that “climate change is to the point [where] there’s no major dissent in the scientific community,” many people still don’t believe it’s real. “There’s a lot more uncertainty with earthquakes,” Hough says, and “we’re trying to communicate with imperfect knowledge.”

Read more at: www.newsweek.com

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