Oklahoma

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The Demotion of a National Park in Oklahoma Exposes Shifting Attitudes About Preserving and Promoting Nature

Kids from a local youth organization laugh and splash in cold, spring-fed pools at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Kids from a local youth organization laugh and splash in cold, spring-fed pools at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulphur, Okla.

The National Park Service turns 100 this year, and many states are celebrating top-tier environmental landmarks that are a big source of local pride. About half the U.S. states don’t have a national park — including Oklahoma.

That wasn’t always the case, and the story of what happened illustrates a changing view of what national parks are for.

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StateImpact’s Earthquake Research Reading List

quakeresearch_WEB

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists say oil and gas activity is likely responsible for much of the earthquake activity that has surged in Oklahoma since 2009.

Seismologists, regulators, lawmakers, oil industry experts and everyday Oklahomans trying to understand the earthquake phenomenon — known as “induced seismicity” — face two seemingly contradictory observations: Oklahoma has a long history of oil and gas production, and the recent period of increased earthquake activity is comparatively short. Continue Reading

Millions of Oklahomans Exposed to Smoke from Wildfires in Other States, Study Shows

More than 3.7 million people in Oklahoma — almost the entire state population — were exposed to a week or more of wildfire smoke in 2011, according a report by the National Resource Defense Council.

National Resource Defense Council

More than 3.7 million people in Oklahoma — almost the entire state population — were exposed to a week or more of wildfire smoke in 2011, according a report by the National Resource Defense Council.

Wildfires are a well-known hazard in Oklahoma. In 2012 alone, summer fire storms destroyed more than 600 homes and 114,000 acres across the state.

The danger posed by localized fires is easy to understand, but Oklahomans are also exposed to smoke from wildfires in other states, a report by a national environmental group shows.

Oklahoma was the No. 9 most “smoke-affected” state in 2011, according to the study by the National Resource Defense Council, an environmental group. Despite having comparatively few fires in 2011, Oklahoma was downwind of almost all the states ravaged by fire that year. Continue Reading

Twister Truths: Can Nothing Survive an EF5 Tornado?

The skeleton of a home on Lakeview Drive in Moore, which was ravaged by the May 20, 2013 tornado.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The skeleton of a home on Lakeview Drive in Moore, which was ravaged by the May 20, 2013 tornado.

This is part two in our Twister Truths series where we use data to kick the tires on the conventional wisdom underlying severe weather policy in Oklahoma. Read part one here

Despite the risk that comes with living in Tornado Alley, many Oklahomans are reluctant to build tornado shelters. And state and local building codes don’t factor for twisters.

One reason, researchers say, is a public perception that “nothing can survive an EF5 tornado.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any structure outlasting the violent winds and the devastating cloud of shrapnel that accompanies an EF5. Continue Reading

Study: Oklahoma’s Drilling Incentives Reduce Modest Oil and Gas Tax Rates

Click here to read "Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Production Tax Rates: How Does Oklahoma Compare to Peers?," a study by the Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma Policy Institute

Click here to Oklahoma Policy Institute's study, "Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Production Tax Rates: How Does Oklahoma Compare to Peers?"

Oklahoma’s oil boom has led some to question the wisdom in giving hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to a thriving industry.

As the state’s oilfields have boomed, so have tax breaks for oil and gas drilling. The Oklahoma Policy Institute has been critical of such state tax breaks, like those for horizontal drilling — an oil and gas extraction technique that was once experimental and has evolved to become an industry standard.

Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry supports the tax breaks, which they see as an investment in one of the state’s largest economic drivers.

The left-leaning think-tank on Aug. 26 released a study that shows if Oklahoma eliminated the incentives, its oil and gas taxes would still be modest compared to six of its oil-centric peer states.

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Twister Truths: Does the Tornado Risk Peak After the School Day Ends?

A mile-wide tornado near El Reno, Okla. on May 31, 2013.

Richard Rowe / Reuters/Landov

A mile-wide tornado near El Reno, Okla. on May 31, 2013.

This is part one in our Twister Truths series where we use data to kick the tires on the conventional wisdom underlying severe weather policy in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, state and local emergency authorities emphasize individual shelters in peoples’ homes over communal shelters in schools or other civic buildings. As we reported here, almost all the federal disaster funding the state receives has been directed to rebates for the construction of residential shelters and safe rooms.

Seven children died in the Plaza Towers Elementary School when the EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore on May 20, but Oklahoma policymakers — from Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood to local school officials — say a large-scale effort to build storm shelters at public schools, as other states have done, is unlikely.

One of the main reasons, they say: Most tornadoes don’t happen during the school day. In other words, the tragedy at Plaza Towers was highly unusual.

But is that claim true?

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Oklahoma’s Top 5 Local Water Priorities Now That State Question 764 Is Law

Happyfunpaul / flickr

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s Financial Assistance Program helps local governments secure loans to make water infrastructure improvements.

Since the program began in 1985, nearly $3 billion has been provided to counties and municipalities to build wells, improve sewer systems, install generators, and a host of other water projects.

The program allows localities to use the state’s credit to secure loans, instead of their own credit ratings, which are usually worse. But the program was finally stretched to its limit earlier this year.

That’s where State Question 764 comes in. 764 passed on Election Day and expands the amount OWRB can back up loans with to $300 million. Executive Director J.D. Strong says that translates to billions more in loans over the next several decades.

The lists of projects needing funding are long, but the OWRB says these are the top-five priorities:

System
Loan Amount
Purpose
Tecumseh Utility Authority$3,888,304Construct a raw waterline from Wes Watkins Reservoir to Tecumseh Lake and upgrade the water treatment plant.
Pittsburg County Water Authority$563,000Construct new chemical room and feed system, repair 60' clarifier, replace transfer pumps, repair filter valves and controls.
Goldsby Water Authority$599,215Construct 2.5 miles of replacement 12" transmission line, and a replacement raw waterline from the well field to the water treatment plant.
Cleveland Municipal Authority$5,500,000Four phase upgrade to water supply and treatment facilities that includes demolition of old, unused structures.
Osage County Rural Water District #21$1,771,300Construct new well field and main supply line to proposed water treatment plant, and additional storage.

 

All Six Oklahoma State Questions Pass; Vision2 Fails in Tulsa County

Oklahoma voters approved all six state questions Tuesday, but citizens in Tulsa County turned down both Vision2 propositions.

Statewide, voter turnout was high, and all state questions passed with ‘yes’ votes by wide margins. And while polling suggested voters in Tulsa County voters might deliver a split decision on the two-part Vision2 sales tax extension, both propositions failed.

Provisional ballots cast in Oklahoma won’t be counted until after 5 p.m. on Friday, but here are the final “unofficial” results from the State Election Board as of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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