Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

“Oklahoma Insurers Have Raised Rates as Much as 300 Percent for Earthquake Polices”

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is considering regulations that create a “file-and-use” system for earthquake insurance policies, “meaning insurers would have to submit rate increases to the Oklahoma Insurance Department in advance,” The Oklahoman’s Brianna Bailey reports.

The market for earthquake insurance has experienced significant concentration into a handful of personal lines earthquake carriers over the past five years, according to data complied by Brian Gabbert, chief of market regulation for the Oklahoma insurance Department. At the same time, the total amount of earthquake premiums written in the state has nearly tripled from about $7 million in 2010 to $19 million in 2015, according to the insurance department.

Read more at: newsok.com

Small Oil and Gas Producers Urge Lawmakers to Keep or Amend Rebate for Unprofitable Wells

Columbus Oil Company owner Darlene Wallace in the field with a "stripper well," which produces two-and-a-half barrels of oil a day.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Columbus Oil Company owner Darlene Wallace in the field with a "stripper well," which produces two-and-a-half barrels of oil a day.

The deadline to fund state government is rapidly approaching, and legislators are struggling to bridge a $1.3 billion budget gap. One idea is to end a tax rebate for unprofitable oil and gas wells, but small oil and gas producers say their safety net shouldn’t be used to plug the state’s budget hole.

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Oklahoma Agency Protecting Scenic Rivers Dissolved As State Funding Dries Up

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Executive Director Ed Fite next to a mountain of life vests at the War Eagle Resort near Tahlequah, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission's Fite next to a mountain of life vests at the War Eagle Resort near Tahlequah, Okla.

Come July 1, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will be no more.

Gov. Mary Fallin on May 11 signed a bill disbanding the small state agency, transferring its mission — and employees — to the Grand River Dam Authority, which now takes on the Commission’s role of keeping Oklahoma’s six scenic rivers clean and safe for tourists. Continue Reading

“Senate Cotes to Trim Tax Credit for At-risk Wells”

The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would end a tax break for “economically distressed” oil and gas wells, The Oklahoman’s Rick Green reports.

This could save the state nearly $133 million next fiscal year as the downturn in the oil industry has greatly increased the number of financially risky wells. In good times for the industry, the cost to the state was only about $4 million a year.

Senate Bill 1577, which is now to be considered in the House, was approved 37-6.

In a year in which the state faces a $1.3 billion budget hole, this tax provision simply got too expensive, bill proponents said.

“Failure of this bill would result in cuts to Medicaid, education and other core services,” said Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond.

Read more at: newsok.com

Reuters: Insurance Companies Limit Exposure as Oklahoma Earthquakes Soar

Insurance companies moved to limit their exposure as Oklahoma’s earthquake rate exploded, according to an investigation by Reuters.

Examining thousands of pages of documents from the Oklahoma Insurance Commission, reporter Luc Cohen found the efforts by nearly a dozen insurance companies “often occurred at the expense of homeowners”:

Even as they insured more and more properties against earthquakes in the past two years, six insurers hiked premiums by as much as 260 percent and three increased deductibles. Three companies stopped writing new earthquake insurance altogether, state regulatory filings obtained by Reuters show. Several insurers took more than one of those steps.

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Next Republican House Leader Has Roots in Southeastern Oklahoma Water

Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in early May was tapped by his republican colleagues to be their next leader.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in early May was tapped by his republican colleagues to be their next leader.

Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week chose a new leader for 2017: Charles McCall. The Republican is from Atoka in southeast Oklahoma, which could bring a unique perspective on water to the capitol.

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“Environmental Groups Sue Over Oil-field Wastewater Regulations”

“Three environmental organizations this week sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking for national rules and regulations on the handling and disposing of produced water and other waste products,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

MAY 6, 2016 – The Environmental Integrity Project, the National Resources Defense Council and Earthworks filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, saying federal regulators need to set national rules following produced water spills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas.

Read more at: newsok.com

Federal Scientists Worried Oklahomans Were Getting Wrong Message on Earthquakes, Records Show

Shaken residents line up inside Edmond's Waterloo Baptist Church to voice concerns and ask representatives from the Corporation Commission and the state Geological Survey questions about recent earthquakes.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Shaken residents lined up inside Edmond's Waterloo Baptist Church in June 2014 to voice concerns and ask officials questions about Oklahoma's spike in earthquakes.

Federal researchers feared Oklahomans were getting inaccurate information and inadequate warnings from state government scientists and officials tasked with studying and responding to a surge of earthquakes linked to oil and gas activity, a StateImpact investigation has found.

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“Oklahoma Corporation Commission Approves OG&E’s $500M Coal Scrubber Plan”

The decision allows the state’s largest utility to continue work installing air scrubbers at its coal-fired power plant in Red Rock, Okla., but environmental groups wanted OG&E to move away from coal.

Persistence paid off for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. as regulators gave approval Thursday to the utility’s third attempt for a $500 million coal scrubber project to deal with tougher emissions regulations. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted 2-0 that the project was “reasonable,” with Commissioners Bob Anthony and Todd Hiett voting for the order.

Read more at: newsok.com

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