Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People
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.
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 →
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.
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.
Oklahoma is one of few states with no dedicated agency charged with regulating the safety of oil and gas pipelines, a gap the U.S. Department of Transportation started scrutinizing in the wake of pipeline explosions across the country. Continue Reading →
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.
Using Oklahoma Tax Commission records, Rick Mosier, of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, discussed the growth of Oklahoma zero-emission tax credits. These are awarded to wind power companies based on how much electricity they generate. More than $40 million of these credits were awarded in 2012. Beginning this year, qualifying companies can get 85 percent of the credit in a check from the state even if they have no tax liability.
Oklahoma regulators are updating “forced pooling” rules — which allows wells to be drilled if most, but not all, mineral interest owners agree. “Much of the controversy centers on what should happen when a company wants to drill a horizontal well in an area with an existing vertical well,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.
“These issues are more complicated than ever,” Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy said. “The framework of the pooling laws has existed for many years. I don’t think that framework was designed for the world we’re living in now. When the pooling process was put in place, it was not put in place for this.” Owners of the existing vertical wells expressed concern about how their wells should be valued and about how much communication they should have with the applicants before a forced pooling action is taken.
Carbon dioxide emission rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pollution from power plants “are poorly formulated and impractical,” executives from Western Farmers Electric Cooperative said Tuesday. Continue Reading →
Al Jazeera Plus produced a 10-minute video on Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm, which included interviews with worried residents and activists and explored some of the science that has linked the seismic surge to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.