Leflore County resident Alan Brady says the large berm in the background blocks the view of the mountains he had before mining started.
Oklahoma and the federal government aren’t getting along.
From health insurance exchanges to power plant emissions, the Obama Administration just can’t seem to get Oklahoma to play ball.
And there’s a lesser-known fight that’s starting to get more attention — over coal mining. More specifically, how land is treated after it’s mined.
There’s a hearing underway in Poteau this week, where attorneys for Farrell-Cooper Mining Company are appealing federal violations at three of its former mines.
The Tulsa branch of the federal Office of Surface Mining issued the violations to Farrell-Cooper, saying the mines are out of compliance with the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Specifically, the part of the law that requires land to be restored to its ‘approximate original contour.’
Jeff Converse of the Canton Lake Association stands in front of a boat ramp he says has been surrounded by mud and weeds since Oklahoma City withdrew water from the lake in January.
Canton, Oklahoma — population 625 — is a town on the brink. Canton relies on lake season, and lake season never really got started this year.
At the first of the year, Oklahoma City took water from Canton Lake to meet demand at the height of the drought. While that decision kept faucets flowing in the metro, it threatens the very existence of Canton the community.
The Garber-Wellington Aquifer is part of the Central Oklahoma aquifer, which every major city in the region uses — except Oklahoma City.
Moving water from the southeast Oklahoma to Oklahoma City is highly controversial. The battle over who controls water across most of that part of the state still has the state, city and tribal governments tied up in court after more than two years.
If only there was another large source of water, near the metro, that OKC could use. Well, State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, says there is: The Garber-Wellington Aquifer. And he’s tired of seeing Oklahoma City take water out of his district in the far southeast corner of the state.
“They’ve got other things. They’ve got groundwater. They’ve got the Garber-Wellington Aquifer there,” Ellis says.
A larger than usual crowd packs the OWRB's monthly meeting in Midwest City to hear the board vote Wednesday afternoon.
Supporters let out a big cheer Wednesday after the Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted to cap the amount of water that can be taken from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, the source of drinking water for communities across a large area of south-central Oklahoma.
The decision was 10 years in the making, and came about — in part — because some landowners were concerned that limestone and sand mining was draining the aquifer too quickly.
Digging a quarter-mile wide hole hundreds of feet deep displaces a lot of aquifer water. And if the water level of the aquifer drops below where it enters streams and springs, towns like Ada, Tishomingo and Davis will have to find another source.
So in 2003, area legislators set out to make sure that didn’t happen. A law was passed that ordered the water board to determine how much water could safely be removed from the Arbuckle-Simpson without disturbing those springs and streams.
Sulphur Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelly Sawatzky stands just outside an entrance to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Okla.
Thousands of federal workers in Oklahoma were furloughed because of the budget stalemate in Washington, D.C., including those in charge of operating and maintaining dozens of campsites and parks run by the U.S. government.
In Sulphur, barricades warn the public away from entering the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is closed along with federal parks across the state, many around some of Oklahoma’s most popular lakes.
But it’s not just employees of the National Park Service or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are suffering. Cities and towns that depend on tourism are taking a hit, too.
Donald Ray prepares a cow for milking on his step-father's small dairy farm in rural Creek County.
The state Department of Agriculture says the number of Oklahomans choosing raw milk over pasteurized is growing.
But currently, the only way to get a hold of any is to physically drive to a dairy farm and buy it directly from the producer.
It’s illegal to deliver or advertise raw milk in Oklahoma — for now.
State Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, led an interim legislative study Sept. 17 over the impact of legalizing raw milk delivery and advertising, where several Oklahomans testified about the benefits of the unpasteurized product.
A portion of Atoka Lake from January 2013. Oklahoma City has been using Atoka Lake water for decades.
When Oklahoma City decided to build a pipeline that would eventually carry water from Sardis Lake to the city, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations filed suit in federal court arguing that most of the water in southeastern Oklahoma belongs to them.
That was in 2011. The parties have been negotiating outside of court since early 2012, and the case was stayed for a sixth time Sept. 17.
Ret. Col. Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment
Traditionally, Oklahoma’s governor has relied on advice from separate officials representing energy and the environment.
But in July, Gov. Mary Fallin moved to combine the two offices into one. “Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy,” Fallin said in a statement accompanying an executive order creating the new Secretary of Energy and Environment cabinet secretary post.