Travel Aficionado / Flickr

Natural Gas Money “Transforming” Oklahoma

  • Joe Wertz

Travel Aficionado / Flickr

Natural gas drilling, like the operation near Elk City above, is bringing new wealth to the Oklahoman plains.

The New York Times took its readers to Oklahoma this weekend in a story about how natural gas wealth is transforming rural parts of the state.

Reporter Eric Lipton sets the scene:

Across the state in tiny Atoka, a Cadillac and a Jaguar park next to pickups outside the local store that sells cowboy boots and overalls; in nearby Coalgate, the natural gas industry has created six overnight millionaires.

Lipton’s story focuses on U.S. Representative Dan Boren, “a Democrat who has deep family ties to the industry — and has acted as one of its best friends on Capitol Hill.”

Lipton writes that money from drilling has benefitted locals:

[Atoka] Mayor Charles A. McCall III was startled when local farmers began showing up at his family-owned bank with giant checks from gas companies. Signing bonuses that were once $200 per acre soared to $2,000 and eventually to $20,000 an acre, in addition to any eventual royalties.

Big corporations:

Devon Energy alone is spending $1 billion on drilling operations in Oklahoma this year. It is also building a skyscraper in Oklahoma City unlike anything the state has ever seen — it towers over the Capitol like the oilman’s version of the Washington Monument.

And big-time politicians like Rep. Boren:

The congressman’s income has jumped in the last six years, thanks to two family businesses he partly owns that have signed more than 300 mineral leases, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

During his career, Mr. Boren has received more than $690,000 from the oil and gas industry, and in the 2010 election cycle, he took in more than any other House Democrat from industry executives, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.