Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

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Other States Have Outsized Influence in Oklahoma’s Scenic River Protection Policy

Bob Deitrick of Owasso stands along the banks of the Upper Illinois River at the Round Hollow public access point north of Tahlequah, Okla. The headwaters of this river are in Arkansas.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Bob Deitrick of Owasso stands along the banks of the Upper Illinois River at the Round Hollow public access point north of Tahlequah, Okla. The headwaters of this river are in Arkansas.

This is part two of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part one is available here.

Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles.

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Flaming Waterways and Death Threats: The History of Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers

A group of Tulsa bartenders prepare for a day on the Illinois River at Diamondhead Resort near Tahlequah, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group of Tulsa bartenders prepare for a day on the Illinois River at Diamondhead Resort near Tahlequah, Okla.

This is part one of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. 

Even though it’s a Monday morning, rowdy Tulsans pile into a bus at Diamondhead Resort and rumble toward the nearest access point into the Illinois River.

“If you have a good group of people and enough alcohol you can make anything fun,” one floater tells StateImpact.

They head off to enjoy a booze-soaked afternoon on the water, oblivious to the decades of effort it took to keep this water clear and the river flowing.

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Oklahoma State Parks Director Says State Parks ‘Not on the List’ of Core Services

Shaun Pelkey and his daughter Ireland Pelkey enjoy the afternoon at one of Walnut Creek State Park's beaches on Keystone Lake.

Logan Layden / StateImpactOklahoma

Shaun Pelkey and his daughter Ireland Pelkey enjoy the afternoon at one of Walnut Creek State Park's beaches on Keystone Lake.

State tourism officials are considering closing or transferring four more state parks. The agency, like many, has had its budget cut over the past four years, but the decision to defund state parks is about more than money.

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In Lawsuit Over Oil and Gas Tax Law, Two Ways to ‘Test’ a Revenue Bill in 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.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenged laws in the past, leaves a courtroom at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.

The State Supreme Court on July 29 heard a lawsuit and constitutional challenge to House Bill 2562, a measure that would change the effective state tax rate levied on oil and gas production.

Both parties agreed that the measure was written to reduce taxes, but is HB 2562 a “revenue bill?” That definition is important because this court battle isn’t about policy, it’s about procedure.

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Why Oklahoma’s Wind Energy Future Could be Shaped by Osage County

Bob Hamilton, director of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Bob Hamilton, director of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Okla.

Oklahoma is moving up the national ranks in wind-generated electricity. But as wind farms expand into northeastern Oklahoma, developers are facing a team of unlikely allies: oil interests and environmentalists.

Wind farm developers encounter opposition wherever projects are planned, but the debate in Oklahoma is perhaps most magnified in Osage County, where there’s a confluence of money, government and prairie politics.

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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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High-Rate Disposal Wells Could Have Triggered Oklahoma Earthquakes, New Study Suggests

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Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 'Chambers' disposal well in southeast Oklahoma City.

This year, Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests oil and gas production is fueling this increase in seismic activity.

A new paper published today in the journal Science, suggests a small number of wastewater wells used in drilling operations could be responsible for many of the quakes.

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Why Norman Is The Only Oklahoma Town Where Citizens Control the Price of Water

Harold Heiple, chairman of Norman's charter review committee, addresses the city council in Norman June 17.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Harold Heiple, chairman of Norman's charter review committee, addresses the city council in Norman June 17.

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where utility rates are determined by a vote of the people — who aren’t always willing to charge themselves more for water. A proposal to change that came before the city council last week and was rebuffed, despite consensus that allowing voters to decide rates could be hurting the city.

Letting customers vote on rate increases seems like a great way to fund expensive water system repairs and give citizens a voice. But some members of the Norman City Council, like Greg Heiple, say that city’s unique way of handling water ends up costing more.

“I came up with some estimates, and these are my guesses. It has cost us in the last 40 years a quarter of a billion to a half billion dollars in cost of waiting on projects,” Heiple says.

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Norman’s Choice: Wastewater Reuse or Reliance on Oklahoma City’s Pipelines

Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Okla.

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.

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Court Losses Won’t Deter Attorney General Scott Pruitt In His Fight With The EPA

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c_nilsen / Flickr

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.”

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