Boom and Gloom: Tourism and Industry Collide Along Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers

Debbie Doss picks up garbage and loose clothing left behind by careless tourists along Lee Creek.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Debbie Doss picks up garbage and loose clothing left behind by careless tourists along Lee Creek.

This is part three of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part two is available here.

A narrow rock wall holds back all but a couple of tiny waterfalls that sneak through cracks and flow into Lee Creek. This natural dam is so unique a nearby town in northwest Arkansas was named for it.

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“Texas Proposes Tougher Rules on Wells After Quakes”

The oil and gas regulator in Texas is proposing “new rules that would require would-be operators to submit geological information in their permit applications and give the state the authority to take away permits when wells can be linked to earthquakes — a notable gesture by an agency run in large part by industry executives,” the Associated Press’ Emily Schmall reports.


The move comes as states grapple with how to respond to growing public anxieties over the risks from hydraulic fracturing — which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to free oil and gas — and the disposal of vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into so-called injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground.

Read more at: kxan.com

“Man-Made Earthquakes Are Proliferating, but We Won’t Admit Fault”

Interesting Newsweek piece Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm: “Humans have always had trouble understanding those aspects of existence that are monumental in scope. For most of our history, all larger-than-life natural phenomena have required the explanatory assistance of other equally larger-than-life forces.”


As seismologists scramble to understand these earthquakes, convincing the public—and the energy industry—that humans may be behind them has been nearly impossible. Hough brings up climate change as a comparison. Despite the fact that “climate change is to the point [where] there’s no major dissent in the scientific community,” many people still don’t believe it’s real. “There’s a lot more uncertainty with earthquakes,” Hough says, and “we’re trying to communicate with imperfect knowledge.”

Read more at: www.newsweek.com

Residents File Class-Action Lawsuit to Block Wind Turbines Near Kingfisher

Seven landowners filed a class-action lawsuit this week to prevent wind turbines from being built near their homes in Canadian and Kingfisher counties.

In the complaint, which is embedded above, the landowners claim that planned wind farm projects controlled by Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy would create a nuisance, devalue their property and adversely affect their health. Continue Reading

“Questions Remain at Epicenter of Quake Trend”

NewsOK published an in-depth package on Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm, including the science and skepticism on possible links to oil and gas activity.


Oklahoma is a seismically active state crisscrossed with thousands of natural fault lines. But seismic activity has spiked over the past five years, leading scientists, regulators, oil and natural gas industry representatives and the general public to question what is different today — if anything — and what could be causing the rumblings. Some researchers have attributed the swarm to natural causes. Others have pointed largely to the oil and natural gas industry, specifically at its practice of disposing of produced water by pumping it deep below ground. Others say the unusual swarm likely is a combination of factors.

Read more at: newsok.com

State Agencies Concerned About Carrying Out EPA’s ‘Aggressive’ Air Pollution Plan

Power lines extend out from the Oklaunion coal-fired power plant near Vernon, Texas.

roy.luck / Flickr

Power lines extend out from the Oklaunion coal-fired power plant near Vernon, Texas.

State environmental and utility regulators on Thursday said it would be a struggle to accomplish carbon dioxide reduction goals outlined in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan.”

The EPA’s proposal, first outlined in June, “would mean carbon dioxide reductions of more than 40 percent from Oklahoma power plants by 2030,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

The Department of Environmental Quality already has 12 employees studying the proposed rules and how they might be implemented in the state, said Eddie Terrill, director of the air quality division. Continue Reading

Other States Have Outsized Influence in Oklahoma’s Scenic River Protection Policy

Bob Deitrick of Owasso stands along the banks of the Upper Illinois River at the Round Hollow public access point north of Tahlequah, Okla. The headwaters of this river are in Arkansas.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Bob Deitrick of Owasso stands along the banks of the Upper Illinois River at the Round Hollow public access point north of Tahlequah, Okla. The headwaters of this river are in Arkansas.

This is part two of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part one is available here.

Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles.

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Injection Well Earthquakes Feel Weaker Than Natural Ones, New Study Suggests

While a growing chorus of scientific research has linked Oklahoma’s recent spike in earthquake activity to oil and gas industry disposal wells, a new study suggests such artificial earthquakes are less intense than naturally occurring temblors.

The peer-reviewed paper appears in the October 2014 edition of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America and was authored by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough, who found that people reported less shaking from earthquakes linked to fluid injection than naturally occurring earthquakes of similar magnitude. Continue Reading

Norman Residents Hear About Possibilities Of Banning Fracking At Public Forum

Terry Stowers waits to respond during an exchange with David Slottje at the fracking forum at Norman Public Library Aug. 11.

Joy Hampton / The Norman Transcript

Terry Stowers waits to respond during an exchange with David Slottje at the fracking forum at Norman Public Library Aug. 11.

The Lowry Room at the Norman Public Library filled to capacity Monday night, and a mass of people packed into the hallways to listen to a forum on hydraulic fracturing that included an OU scientist, assistant city attorney, and a lawyer from upstate New York who’s helped communities there ban fracking.

StateImpact’s Logan Layden moderated the event as each panelist made a presentation, and read questions from the audience.

Dr. Robert Puls was up first, and went over some of the basics of fracking. Puls is director of the Oklahoma Water Survey and an associate professor at OU’s College of Atmosphereic and Geographic Sciences. His presentation focuses on how the fracking process works. Continue Reading

Fracking Site Operator Faces Contempt Complaint After Acid Spill

Crews work to contain and clean up 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid that spilled near a hydraulic fracturing site near Hennessey, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crews work to contain and clean up 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid that spilled near a hydraulic fracturing site near Hennessey, Okla.

Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator filed a contempt complaint this week against the company overseeing a hydraulic fracturing operation in an oil field where 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled.

The spill could be the state’s largest related to fracking, says Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner.

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