To Get Permit in Earthquake Zone, Disposal Well Operator Agrees to Extra Monitoring

An oil company seeking to build a disposal well in earthquake-prone Logan County has agreed to record additional pressure and volume measurements to get a permit from the state’s oil and gas regulator.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday voted 2-0 to approve the disposal well for Kansas-based Slawson Exploration. Commissioner Dana Murphy abstained from the vote “saying she wanted to wait until more seismic data was available,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Slawson agreed to record daily pressure and volume rates on the disposal well. It also will run a bottom-hole pressure test prior to injection and every 60 days for up to six months.

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StateImpact on OETA: Possible Lawsuit Over Recently Signed Drilling Incentive

I was on Oklahoma News Report last week to discuss the controversial tax incentive for oil and gas drilling, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed on May 28.

The bill is likely to draw a legal challenge from an Oklahoma City attorney, who says it’s a “revenue bill” that was passed without some of the legislative burdens added to the Oklahoma Constitution in 1992 with the voter-approved State Question 640.

The episode first aired on May 23. StateImpact’s segment is embedded above.

Drought in Southwest Oklahoma Dented But Not Dead After Days of Rain

The May 27th update of the U.S. Drought Monitor showing some improvement in southwest Oklahoma.


The May 27th update of the U.S. Drought Monitor showing some improvement in southwest Oklahoma.

The latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows some improvement in the hardest hit part of the state — southwest Oklahoma — after a very wet Memorial Day weekend.

Drovers CattleNetwork’s Angela Bowman looked at the impact recent rains have had across the southern plains, and found that while the last week helped, it won’t take long for drought to fully reassert itself, and it’s too late for the state’s wheat crop:

In nearby Oklahoma, conditions also improved with last week’s rain, falling from 61 percent in extreme or worse drought to 55 percent. Even so, the drought has already decimated Oklahoma’s wheat crop.

NewsChannel Four’s Aaron Bracket says Oklahoma has not seen a drought like this in decades.

Bracket said, “You know this drought really is exceptional. We’re talking something we haven’t seen, in not just years, but decades in parts of Southwestern [Oklahoma].”

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What Became of the Bills StateImpact Was Watching This Legislative Session?

The Oklahoma Senate

Becky McCray / Flickr

The Oklahoma Senate

From the start of the legislative session on February 3rd, StateImpact Oklahoma had its eye on what was sure to be a heated issue: the coming expiration of a tax credit for horizontally drilled oil and gas wells. Without action, rates would go from one-percent for the first four years of a well’s life, back to 7 percent.

Democrats like Representative Richard Morrissette argued companies don’t drill for oil and gas because of tax breaks, and it can’t be assumed they have the best interest of Oklahomans at heart.

“The jobs are here, because they’ve got to get the gold out of the ground,” Morrissette said on the House floor. “They’re not doing it because of the love of country and state. They’re doing it for the love of the dollar bill.”

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Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Controversial Tax Incentive for New Oil and Gas Wells

Rig crews on a Helmerich & Payne operation in western Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crews working on a drilling rig in western Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed a bill that makes permanent a generous tax incentive for new oil and gas drilling.

The controversial measure, House Bill 2562, was forged as lawmakers and energy company executives debated the appropriate tax rate for the industry, which drives much of the state’s economy. Oil and gas groups lobbied hard for the bill, as did executives from three of the state’s largest oil and gas companies, who argued the incentive would help Oklahoma compete with other states for drilling.

“The new 2 percent tax rate is fair to the state and sends a clear message to energy producers worldwide: Oklahoma is the place for energy production and investment.” Fallin said in a statement. “We want to be a leader in this field not just today but for decades to come.”

Several other high-profile energy executives, however, said taxes and incentives had little bearing on where or whether they drilled. Continue Reading

Wind Projects in Osage County Dividing ‘Neighbors and Families’

Turbine nacelles for an wind farm project are collecting at a staging area in Osage County.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Turbine nacelles for an wind farm project at a staging area in Osage County.

Wind-energy companies have high hopes for Osage County. It’s windy, of course, but unlike other windy areas of western Oklahoma, Osage County is a lot closer to the heavy-duty electrical infrastructure needed to transport power from turbines to the grid.

Wind farms have met resistance in other Oklahoma communities, but opposition to the Osage County projects has been particularly fierce because the region is ecologically sensitive and culturally significant. The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Opponents of the two projects by Kansas-based TradeWind Energy Inc. said they endanger the natural beauty of the tallgrass prairie, its fragile ecosystem and the cultural history of the Osage Nation. The area is at the southern edge of the Flint Hills, the last sliver of the natural tallgrass prairie that at one time covered 140 million acres in North America. Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Attorney General’s Challenge to Federal Haze Rule

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.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Haze Rule is meant to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges by reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Oklahoma Gas and Electric — the state’s largest utility — have fought the Regional Haze Rule since the EPA rejected the state’s implementation plan in 2012, but it looks like this is the end of the line.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear Pruitt and OG&E’s challenge to a lower court’s ruling in favor of the EPA’s decision to reject the Oklahoma plan. Continue Reading

“Okla. Governor Urged to Reject Oil Production Tax”

A spokesman for the governor, Alex Weintz, says Fent’s opinion of the bill won’t affect whether she signs it.

Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent hand delivered a letter to Fallin’s office Tuesday urging her not to approve the bill. Fent says it was passed during the last week of the legislative session in violation of a constitutional requirement. The lawsuit also alleges it was approved by fewer lawmakers than required by the constitution, which says revenue bills must be approved by three-fourths of the membership of the House and Senate.

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Oklahoma Legislature Passes Controversial Tax Incentive for New Oil and Gas Wells


josephleenovak / flickr

The  Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday approved a bill that makes permanent a generous tax incentive for oil and gas production.

The votes followed a heated debate at the Capitol, and months of disagreement between lawmakers, industry lobbyists and energy executives, which are divided on the measure.

The bill’s approval was decried by opponents, like the left-leaning Oklahoma Policy Institute, which described the measure as a “subsidy” for the “well-connected” oil and gas industry. And one Oklahoma City attorney is already considering a constitutional challenge to the bill. Continue Reading

Oklahoma’s Drought-Withered Wheat Harvest Could Have National Effects


Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Brothers and business partners Fred and Wayne Schmedt stand in their family's wheat field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.

Four years of extreme drought has withered the agricultural economies of southern Great Plains states like Oklahoma, where farmers are bracing for one of the worst wheat crops in state history.

And Oklahoma’s withered wheat harvest could have national consequences.

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