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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Norman Voters Will Still Decide Water Rates As Charter Change Gets Rejected


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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.

As The Norman Transcript‘s Jessica Bruha reports, the unique way Norman sets utility rates has its origins 40 years ago: Continue Reading

The Unique Way Norman Sets Its Water, Sewer Rates Could Be Changing


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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.

From The Norman Transcript‘s Jessica Bruha:

“The city council would then set the rates for utilities,” said Harold Heiple, Charter Review Commission chairman, if the item was put on the ballot and approved by voters.

Heiple said Norman is the only city in the state that requires voter approval of utility rate increases.

The provision was put into the charter in 1974 after a dramatic increase in utility rates, but is now outdated when looking at long-term water needs for the city, he said.

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“Oklahoma’s Late Rains Further Harm Wheat Crop”

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.

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Weakening Drought and Industry Trends Raise Hopes For Cattle Herd Rebound


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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.

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“Drought Conditions Ease Up In Oklahoma”

The ongoing drought is by no means over, with large chunks of western Oklahoma still experiencing the worst category. But all the recent rain certainly doesn’t hurt.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report says drought conditions are improving in Oklahoma, though more than half of the state remains in extreme or exceptional

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


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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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OG&E Plans Expensive Move Away from Coal to Comply With EPA Rules

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's coal-fired Sooner Plant in Red Rock, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

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

Legal Challenge to New Drilling Incentive Could Raise Big Constitutional Questions

A legal challenge to a recently signed bill authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman could have wide-ranging effects.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A legal challenge to a recently signed bill authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman could have wide-ranging effects.

A controversial bill setting the effective tax rate on new oil and gas wells was one of the capstones of the 2014 legislative session.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure on May 28, ending months of intense debate and oil industry lobbying. But the bill is already headed for a legal challenge, and some of the constitutional questions could have a far-reaching effect because they could define the very words and terms lawmakers use to fund government in Oklahoma.

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Norman Narrows Its Options For How To Have Enough Water in 2060

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

Melissa Megginson / Flickr

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, residents in Norman — where the water system is stressed due to population growth and age, and drought has taken a toll on already troubled Lake Thunderbird — heard about the city’s two options for water sustainability through 2060.

The Norman Transcript‘s Joy Hampton reports both options would keep Lake Thunderbird and the city’s wells as the main water sources, and continue the push toward conservation that has already “reduced the per-capita demand.”

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