Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People
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.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been on a lengthy losing streak of late in his fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear his challenge to the regional haze rule. Rulings over the cross-state pollution rule and mercury and air toxics standards didn’t go his way either.
But chalk down today’s 5-4 SCOTUS decision as at least a partial win for Pruitt and adherents to the idea that the EPA is reaching beyond its authority to stifle the fossil fuel industry.
The justices said Monday that the EPA lacks authority in some cases to force companies to evaluate ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This rule applies when a company needs a permit to expand facilities or build new ones that would increase overall pollution. Carbon dioxide is the chief gas linked to global warming.
Oklahoma is dealing with another rash of earthquakes this week, some topping 4.0 in magnitude, which triggers Oklahoma Department of Transportation inspections of bridges within 5 to 10 miles of the epicenters.
Moments after an earthquake struck Oklahoma City on Monday, Robert Stem had a pretty good hunch what people were doing. “That quake was at 5:39 (a.m.) and I promise you that at 6 there were people in their cars heading out to look at a nearby bridge,” said Stem, who is the executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors.
Oklahoma’s third largest city is at a water crossroads.
Norman is updating its strategic water supply plan to make sure it has enough to meet growing demand over the next 50 years. And the city council’s choice is between reliance on Oklahoma City and water from southeast Oklahoma, or reusing its own wastewater.
After two years of study and public input, more than a dozen plans were narrowed down to two, portfolio 14 and portfolio 13.
Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where water rate increases require a vote of the public. And as StateImpact reported, a proposal to strike that clause from the city’s charter was before the city council on June 18, which would’ve put the change on the November ballot.
But despite concerns about how difficult it is to plan for future water projects when planners are unsure if voters will allow rate increases to pay for projects, the council failed to pass the measure 7-1, preferring the change to instead come in the form of an initiative petition from city residents or not at all.
Norman is the only city in Oklahoma that requires water rate increases to be approved through a vote of the people, which at times has stymied attempts to upgrade aging water infrastructure, and makes planning for future expenses difficult.
At a special Norman City Council meeting Tuesday evening, the charter review commission will propose changing the city charter to put the power to hike rates back in the hands of the council.
Oklahoma’s wheat crop can’t catch a break. This year’s wheat suffered under some of the worst drought classifications and endured a damaging late freeze. And when the rain finally came, it was at the worst possible time.
The rain that could have been a blessing has become a curse. Now that it’s early June, it’s time to harvest. But the wheat can’t be cut when it’s wet. And storing damp wheat makes it spoil. “We have been dry for three years, and it started raining 10 days ago,” said Blackwell wheat farmer Harold Wooderson.
With drought in retreat — at least for the moment — the U.S. cattle herd, which has been severely damaged by shrinking water supplies and withering grazing land in the face of rising demand, might begin to trend back up.
The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports 87.7 million head of cattle were held by U.S. farmers and ranchers in January, and that the number hasn’t been that low since the early 1950s. But Oklahoma State University agriculture economist Darrell Peel tells that paper there are signs of growth:
“We won’t have data to confirm a turnaround yet, at least not until the midyear cattle numbers come out in late July,” Peel said. “But the early indications from cow slaughter and heifer slaughter — as well as just looking at the conditions as hard-hit drought areas start to see a little rain — suggest that we’re going to see some herd building soon.
“As a state, Oklahoma is seeing herd expansion. It’s fairly modest, but at least it’s the beginnings of expansion,” he said.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed new rules to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — predictably — blasted the plan as another example of federal overreach in the Obama Administration’s war on fossil fuels.
And the same day the EPA announced its CO2 emission goal, Pruitt was already making a case for litigation over it.
“The EPA can’t force utility companies to actually incorporate emission control measures unless they’re achievable through technology,” Pruitt tells StateImpact. “And here, there really isn’t any demonstrated technology that will see a reduction of 30 percent.”
Oklahoma Gas & Electric's coal-fired Sooner Plant in Red Rock, Okla.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric — the state’s largest utility — was resistant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, which means to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges, and was part of a challenge to the rule the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear.
So, as The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports, OG&E is — begrudgingly — planning to convert two of its coal-fired units at its Muskogee power plant to natural gas, install air scrubbers at its Sooner plant, and make other changes to comply with federal rules the company says will cause customers’ electricity bills to rise substantially: Continue Reading →
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