An active aggregate mining operation near Mill Creek, Okla.
This isn’t the first legislative session some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for a severance tax for mining limestone and sand, but it’s the first time the idea has gotten this far.
On Monday, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed HB1876, which would allow up to a five percent tax on the production of limestone, sand, and other aggregates. It now moves to the full house for consideration.
But there are several caveats: It would only be a county-level tax for specific infrastructure improvements, couldn’t be enacted until county commissioners bring the issue to a vote of the people, and the severance tax would only apply to material sold in other counties or states.
As StateImpact has reported, residents, particularly in heavily mined Johnston County and on the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, want something more for sacrificing their natural resources. When limestone is shipped to Texas to be sold, it’s cities and towns there that benefit from the sales tax on it.
Federal and university seismologists and geophysicists say oil and gas activity is likely driving Oklahoma’s uptick in earthquakes. The phenomenon, known as “induced seismicity,” is linked to waste fluid injection in disposal wells.
And while scientists say this fluid injection can trigger earthquakes, and suspect it’s doing so in Oklahoma, there are other theories as to what else could be contributing to the state’s exponential increase in seismicity.
Antonides says his research shows that aquifers near the location of certain earthquakes had been depleted, through both drought and increased human demand, and then suddenly refilled, through intense and heavy rains. Continue Reading →
A wind farm outside of Woodward in northwestern Oklahoma.
Western Oklahoma is on the forefront of U.S. wind energy development, and has been for more than a decade. But as wind farm projects creep east, they’re meeting more resistance from landowners and increased involvement from the state legislature.
On Feb. 14, StateImpact reported on the current effort to strengthen laws that require wind energy companies to pay for the decommissioning of turbines, and limit the distance turbines can be from homes without consent from homeowners.
That bill passed out of the Senate Energy Committee, and on Thursday, that same committee passed Senate Bill 1440, which would put a moratorium on the construction of any new wind farms east of Interstate 35 until 2017.
Several wind farms are under various stages of development east of Interstate 35, including one in Craig County by EDP Renewables North America that has drawn opposition by the Oklahoma Property Rights Association.
… [Senate President Pro Tempore Brian] Bingman said the bill is still a work in progress and may be refined to better describe areas that could come under a moratorium.
A gate into a silica sand mining operation near Mill Creek in south-central Oklahoma.
When Oklahomans apply for a permit from most state agencies to, say, dam a river or build a wind farm, formal public hearings are held before the permit is issued, where evidence is presented, concerns are voiced, and legally binding decisions are made.
But things work a little differently at the state Department of Mines, which oversees operations mining for sand and limestone in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, one of the most sensitive water resources in the state. And many of that area’s elected leaders want a change.
Right now, formal hearings for mining permits are scheduled after a permit has been issued. Local residents are able to weigh in at informal hearings before the permit is issued. But Amy Ford, president of the advocacy group Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, says these informal meetings just don’t carry the same weight.
Horizontal drilling has revolutionized the energy industry, and helped unlock oil and gas trapped in tight shale formations that had, for decades, eluded petroleum producers.
But Oklahoma’s oil and gas rules were established when traditional, vertical drilling was the norm. Balancing the regulatory needs of horizontal drillers and vertical drillers — especially those producing in the same formation — can be tricky.
Horizontal drilling is expensive, so larger energy companies comprise the bulk of horizontal drillers. And because small oil and gas companies still do a lot of vertical drilling, disagreements over proposed rules changes often come down to big vs. small.
Well-spacing rules, which were recently changed to accommodate horizontal drilling, have proved controversial with smaller producers. The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo covered the well-attended Corporation Commission meeting. Here’s her breakdown:
Operators can drill horizontal wells in vertical spacing units. However, drillers can’t put vertical wells in horizontal spacing units. Continue Reading →
Before the current legislative session began, StateImpact reported on the coming effort to expand the sale of raw milk, which many see as more beneficial to health than the pasteurized product. But opponents says any health benefit is far outweighed by the potential dangers from harmful bacteria.
Currently, it is legal for a farmer producing raw milk to advertise it for sale alongside a road that borders his or her farmland. Under the provisions of HB 2595, a farmer would be able to advertise raw milk sales anywhere.
Propane customer Shawn Davies vowed not to refill his tank until priced drop significantly.
The 400,000 or so Oklahomans who rely on propane to heat their homes know the routine: When the weather is warm, propane is cheap. When it gets cold, and demand goes up, so does the price.
But what happened this winter is unprecedented. Propane prices are starting to ease after blowing past all-time records in January, reaching a national average of more than $4 a gallon.
There are many reasons the price of propane jumped so high so fast, but it all starts in Japan three years ago, when an earthquake triggered the tsunami that caused the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey — which monitors seismic activity in the state — continues to acknowledged in a Feb. 17 position statement that “both fluid injection and withdrawal in the subsurface can trigger earthquakes,” but stopped short of blaming the oil and gas industry for increased temblors in recent years.
The vast majority of Oklahoma quakes happen within a few miles of injection wells, but the statement throws some cold water on a connection between the two.
About 80% of the State is within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II water disposal or enhanced oil recovery injection well. For this reason, identifying possible induced or triggered seismicity requires more scientific evidence than simply identifying spatial correlations. It is also important to note that about 99% of the earthquakes that have occurred in Oklahoma over the past few years also lie within 9 miles of a UIC Class II well.
The shale gas drilling boom has been a blessing to energy states like Oklahoma, which has low unemployment and an economy that, thanks in part to oil and gas production, was insulated from the worst effects of the Great Recession.
Energy companies are often enviable employers, and drilling has increased labor competition and helped fuel wage increases in Oklahoma and eight other oil and gas states, according to a report (click here for the .pdf) by economist Jason Brown of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Economists often refer to the phenomenon called the resource curse, in which other industries suffer because of one industry’s labor demand and higher wages. Higher wages can also create higher prices for goods and services. Brown studied wages, population and county-level employment in rural areas in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Continue Reading →
“Calling it a ‘matter of public safety,’ Gov. Sam Brownback has appointed a committee to study whether oil and gas activity is behind the recent spate of minor earthquakes in Kansas,” The Whichita Eagle’s Dion Lefler reports.
Fracking doesn’t appear to cause the problem, but an increase in oil and gas production and disposal of waste fluids associated with fracking could be behind the recent temblors that have shaken south-central Kansas and northern Oklahoma, scientists said Monday. “It’s not the fracking itself, it’s this re-injection of the fluids into formations that are considered safe to hold it,” said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. “It’s waste disposal.”