Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

“Even Without Approval, Keystone XL Pipeline Boosts Business”

While the federal government hasn’t decided whether it will approve the northern route of the Keystone XL pipeline, the project, even though it’s in limbo, is still employing vendors and contractors in more than a dozen states.

But the 1,179-mile crude oil project has already transformed Pipeline Equipment Inc., which has fabricated pipeline valves for TransCanada since 2008. Employment has soared 70 percent – growing from 50 employees to 85 today, said Jack Lollis, president of Pipeline Equipment. PE is one of dozens of vendors across 17 states producing parts for the project.

Read more at: journalrecord.com

“Study: $6 Billion Spent On Oklahoma Wind Energy”

A industry-commissioned study shows developers have invested $6 billion in Oklahoma’s wind industry, which has 26 active wind farms and provides $22 million a year in payments to landowners.

Oklahoma’s wind farms have more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity. Improvements will provide more than $43 million in property taxes to municipalities and school districts, and the projects provide more than $22 million a year in payments to local landowners. Nearly 15 percent of the electricity generated in Oklahoma came from wind power last year. Oklahoma wind energy projects range in capacity from 40 to 300 megawatts.

Read more at: kgou.org

Why One Oklahoma Oil Executive Doesn’t Think Oil and Gas Tax Cuts Are Needed

Don Millican, the Chief Financial Officer of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Don Millican, the Chief Financial Officer of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company.

The Kaiser-Francis Oil Company has a lot in common with other storied Oklahoma energy empires. The company has by-the-bootstrap entrepreneurial origins, it’s been battered by boom and bust, and it’s helmed by a billionaire CEO who has weathered controversy and been showered with praise.

But the Tulsa-based exploration and production company is unique in one surprising way: It isn’t pushing for oil and gas tax cuts.

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Legislature Adopts Resolution Asking U.S. Geological Survey for New Red River Study


zeesstof / Flickr

Water levels at Lake Texoma are way down, and for many reasons: Long-term drought near the Red River’s headwaters, increasing demand from rural and municipal water systems, hydroelectric power generation, even the buildup of silt on the lake bed.

At a public meeting in the small lake community of Kingston, Okla., March 15, StateImpact’s heard frustrated residents asking about exactly how much water was flowing into the lake, whether the water downstream from the lake could be used as a municipal water source instead, and exactly how much water is being lost to drought and each type of use.

Water consultant and geologist Bob Jackman’s response to the audience was, basically: There ought to be a study.

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Water Board Member Also President of Group That’s Suing Water Board

Tom Buchanan (far left) and the rest of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board listening to a presenter at a meeting in October.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Tom Buchanan (far left) and the rest of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board listening to a presenter at a meeting in October.

Tom Buchanan is the vice-chairman of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. He’s also president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

And a water advocacy group say that’s a conflict of interest now that the Farm Bureau is suing the OWRB over the maximum annual yield of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.

On Friday, Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy released a statement calling for Buchanan’s resignation.

“Under Mr. Buchanan’s leadership, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau has filed suit against the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, other state and federal agencies, several Oklahoma towns, and hundreds of individuals,” the group wrote. “We have to ask how he can serve on a board that he has in fact sued.”

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Bill to Allow New Tax On Limestone and Sand Mines Dead Until Next Year

State Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka


State Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka

Representative Charles McCall’s bill to allow counties to impose a tax on sand and limestone mining operations that sell their product elsewhere didn’t make it through the full House by the March 14 deadline.

But McCall, R-Atoka, says he will try again next year.

“Unfortunately the measure will go no further this session … however it can and will be introduced next year,” McCall tells StateImpact. “The additional time will afford further education to the membership on this matter.”

As StateImpact reported in February, for years, south-central Oklahoma lawmakers have been pushing for a new tax — or at least a county option for a new tax — on companies that mine for stone and sand, particularly in the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. Continue Reading

Federal Flood Insurance Fix Still Means Higher Premiums For Some Oklahomans

DCF 1.0

robposse / Flickr

Only about 18,000 of Oklahoma’s 3.8 million residents have flood insurance. And less than half of that many have policies that are subsidized by the federal government. But for those 7,000 or so Oklahomans, flood insurance is getting much more expensive.

As The Associated Press’ Kristi Eaton reports, those subsidies are for “homes and businesses constructed in the days before there were rules for building close to water,” but claims have outpaced premium payments. and the National Flood Insurance Program called for reform of the system in 2012:

In 2012, Congress passed a law requiring approximately 1.1 million subsidized policyholders to start paying rates based on the true risk of flooding at their properties. Congress heard the public outcry and passed legislation — signed by President Barack Obama on Friday — that pulls back on some of the increases. Instead of immediate, onerous spikes, homeowners will see annual premium increases as high as 18 percent year after year. Policies for businesses and second homes will climb 25 percent each year.

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OKC Residents Living Off the Water Grid Owe Millions In Past Due Trash Bills


oatsy40 / Flickr

In October 2013, StateImpact reported on the 14,000 or so mostly rural Oklahoma City residents who have their own water wells and aren’t connected to the city water system.

There’s no charge for water on their utility bills, but they’re still supposed to pay for trash pickup. But as The Oklahoman‘s William Crum reports, 2,409 of these waterless utility accounts are past due, and have been for years — to the tune of $5.5 million:

A report prepared last fall by Oklahoma City for the 2014 legislative session showed 16 accounts more than $20,000 behind in payments for stormwater and trash service.

The customer at the top of the list was Burke Thomas, of 8301 N. Air Depot Blvd.

Thomas owed $755.37 in stormwater drainage charges and $3,110.58 for solid waste pickup. Late fees of $3,669.35 on the stormwater bill and $17,486.50 on the trash bill brought the total to $25,021.80. The late fees accounted for 84.5 percent of the total.

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“Quakes Continue to Shake Oklahoma; 14 Since Friday”

The evidence continues to mount that fluid injection by the oil and gas industry causes earthquakes. The energy industry maintains it’s not to blame. While the debate continues, Oklahoma is rumbling more and more.

LANGSTON, Okla. (AP) – The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded 14 earthquakes in Oklahoma since about 9:30 p.m. Friday, the largest being a magnitude 4.0.

Read more at: kwgs.org

Western Oklahoma Gets Some Drought Relief In the Form of State Grant Money

Lake Tom Steed in 2010

K. Latham / Flickr

Lake Tom Steed during better days in 2010.

Parts of western Oklahoma are going into their fourth year of drought, and for the City of Altus, the prospect of its water sources drying up entirely is a real concern.

As The Altus Times’ Jason Angus reports, at a city council meeting on Tuesday, projected dates for the complete depletion of Lake Tom Steed, one of Altus’ two main water sources, were discussed:

As of Tuesday, Lake Tom Steed was at 29.2 percent capacity according the the Bureau of Reclamation, reported Will Archer, Manager of the Mountain Park Conservancy District. If the inflow of water into the reservoir remains the same as the last three years, depletion of the reservoir will not occur until August of 2021. However, if there are no significant inflow events, then the projected date is November 2016.

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