Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Logan Layden

Logan Layden is a native of McAlester, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009 and spent three years as a state capitol reporter and local host of All Things Considered for NPR member station KGOU in Norman.

  • Email: loganlayden@ou.edu

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt Sues EPA Over Federal Clean Power Plan

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt prepares to greet Gov. Mary Fallin at the 2013 State of the State address at the state capitol.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt prepares to greet Gov. Mary Fallin at the 2013 State of the State address at the state capitol.

When StateImpact reported on President Barack Obama’s proposal to cut carbon emissions 30 percent nationally by 2030, mainly through less reliance on coal-fired power plants, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s reaction made it clear a lawsuit was coming.

On Tuesday, it became official. Oklahoma joined West Virginia — which is leading the case — and 10 other states to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

From The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

The attorneys general —11 Republicans and one Democrat — contend the agency doesn’t have the legal authority to issue the proposed rules under Section 11(d) of the Clean Air Act. They said the proposed rules are in conflict with a 2011 settlement the EPA signed with some other states after a lawsuit brought by several environmental groups.

Pruitt said the 2011 settlement said the EPA would use another section of the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions from power plants and stationary sources.

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Dwindling Drought Doesn’t Mean a Slowdown in Water Conservation Efforts

The July 29 update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which doesn't reflect the full impact of this week's rainfall.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The July 29 update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which doesn't reflect the full impact of this week's rainfall.

Despite more than 80 percent of the state still being under some level of drought, recent wet weather and below average temperatures continue to reduce the severity and size of drought in Oklahoma.

As The Oklahoman‘s Graham Lee Brewer Reports, this week’s rainfall “bookended one of the wettest July’s on record for the state, with some areas receiving more than seven inches of rain.”

Including data reported just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, the statewide Oklahoma Mesonet rainfall average of rate past 30 days was 3.89 inches — 1.11 inches above normal.

That number equates to the 22nd-wettest such period dating to 1921, state climatologist Gary McManus said.

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Study: Anti-EPA States Like Oklahoma Would Benefit Most from New Carbon Rules

A pile of coal sits along the railroad tracks just east of Red Oak, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A pile of coal sits along the railroad tracks just east of Red Oak, Okla.

Oklahoma has been battling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over new environmental regulations since Gov. Mary Fallin came into office in 2010, and Attorney General Scott Pruitt is vowing to fight the latest proposed rule that would cut carbon emissions by 30 percent nationally.

But a new study from Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group shows the state might be shooting itself in the foot by fighting what could end up being an economic boom.

From The New York TimesCoral Davenport:

The study took into account the economic costs imposed by the regulation and concluded that it would raise electricity rates by up to 10 percent in some parts of the country and eventually freeze coal production. But even taking those costs into account, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas together would experience an annual net economic benefit of up to about $16 billion, according to the study.

“The irony is that some of the states that have been the loudest in opposing E.P.A. climate regulations have the most to gain in terms of actual economic interest,” said Trevor Houser, an analyst at the Rhodium Group and a co-author of the study.

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Federal Money Flows to Oklahoma for Water Infrastructure Fixes


Christopher Caldwell / Flickr

Over the past week, Oklahoma has secured more than $37 million in federal funding for dam improvements across the state and for water system repairs in communities with aging pipes and treatment plants.

First, on July 18, the federal government announced a national dam assessment and repair program made possible by an “almost 21 fold” increase in funding for watershed rehabilitation under the 2014 Farm Bill. $26.4 million will go to Oklahoma.

From The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green:

Federal and state officials gathered Friday at one such structure, a dam on Perry Lake, to announce $262 million in funding under the 2014 Farm Bill to rehabilitate or assess the condition of hundreds of dams across the nation, including $26.4 million for Oklahoma projects. The idea is to make sure these dams, many built more than a half-century ago, are safe and in good condition for the future.

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State Water Regulator To Study Southwest Oklahoma Supply Shortages


arbyreed / Flickr

The recent wet weather has been more than welcome by residents of drought-parched southwest Oklahoma, but it hasn’t yet been enough to reverse the depletion of municipal water supplies.

Now the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is stepping in to help communities there to keep from running out of water. From The Associated Press:

The studies will focus on how water conservation, marginal quality water supplies and public water supply system regionalization might address the needs of basins on a local level and serve as examples for water users statewide.

The studies are part of the state’s ongoing water conservation initiative.

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Why The OKC Coalition To Pump Water From Southeast Oklahoma Fell Apart

Mitchell Logan supervises a pump station near Macomb, the 100-mile Atoka Pipeline's last stop on its way to the OKC metro.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mitchell Logan supervises a pump station near Macomb, the 100-mile Atoka Pipeline's last stop on its way to the OKC metro.

Oklahoma City has been pumping water out of southeast Oklahoma through the Atoka pipeline for 50 years. But in the future, the aging pipeline won’t be able to carry enough water to meet the growing needs of Oklahoma City, let alone the rest of central Oklahoma. The plan is build another pipeline right next to the existing one.

Seventeen central Oklahoma communities formed a partnership with Oklahoma City to build the new 100-mile pipeline to get the water, but that water coalition has crumbled.

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Four More State Parks at Risk as Budget Cuts and Low Revenue Loom

A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Christopher Caldwell / Flickr

A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Four state parks in northeastern Oklahoma could be sold off, leased out or closed due to state budget cuts and low park revenue.

Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation hasn’t made a final decision on three of the parks, but is considering selling or leasing Disney/Little Blue Area at Grand Lake, Snowdale Area at Grand Lake and Spring River Canoe Trails.

But the agency on July 8 decided to terminate the state’s lease at Walnut Creek, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, KJRH reports.

Selling or leasing the parks are just two of the options they are considering.

Blair said department leaders are exploring all possibilities.

On Tuesday, the tourism and recreation department said it would terminate its lease at Walnut Creek State Park in Osage County, thereby closing the park at the end of summer.

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Oklahoma Drought Easing in the West, Intensifying in the East

The June 1st update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The July 1st update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

Despite the rain, many parts of the state are still struggling, state climatologist Gary McManus said. Conditions have improved in northern and western Oklahoma, where the drought has been the most severe for the past several months.

But the situation is beginning to worsen in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state, he said.

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“Norman Loses Four Wells Due To Arsenic”

Norman has had to shut down wells because of high arsenic levels in the past, and the problem won’t be solved until a new treatment plant is built. The city has adopted a plan that includes a new plant, but it will be several years before it’s up and running.

The city has shut down four of its 32 wells because of high arsenic levels, officials said. The wells will be missed, but there’s no critical shortage of water, Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. The four wells represent 4 percent of the city’s total production, Komiske said.

Read more at: newsok.com

Oklahoma City Follows Norman Down the Road to Wastewater Reuse

Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

Brandon Watts / Flickr

Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

The City of Norman faced a choice last month, meet future municipal water needs by partnering with Oklahoma City to pipe more water from southeast Oklahoma, or treat its wastewater to the point that it can be used again.

As StateImpact reported, Norman went with the more self-reliant reuse plan. Now, as The Oklahoman‘s William Crum reports, Oklahoma City getting into the reuse game as well:

The Water Utilities Trust on Tuesday agreed to a five-year, $1 billion plan that includes work on a second pipeline to ship drinking water from southeast Oklahoma, steps to integrate separate parts of the water distribution system, and improvements to enable reuse of water from Oklahoma City’s Deer Creek wastewater treatment plant.

Treated wastewater would be of a consistently higher quality than the variable river water feeding Lake Hefner, said Marsha Slaughter, the utilities director.

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