Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Lawmakers Question Legality of ‘Creative’ Legislation to Squeeze More Revenue from Oil and Gas Taxes

Service companies parked oil-field trucks and other equipment at the state capitol in a public demonstration as legislators debated a measure that would effectively increase taxes some oil and gas producers pay.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Service companies parked oil-field trucks and other equipment at the state capitol in a public demonstration as legislators debated a measure that would effectively increase taxes some oil and gas producers pay.

Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries.

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With Pruitt Leading EPA, Oklahoma Oil Firm Gains Ground in Fight Against Regulation

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifying at a Jan. 18 confirmation hearing on his nomination as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

C-SPAN

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifying at a Jan. 18 confirmation hearing on his nomination as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Shortly after taking over as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt started a roll-back of Obama-era environmental regulations, an effort that has provided big benefits to one of his home state’s largest independent oil and gas companies, the New York Times reports.

Pruitt has long maintained a close relationship with Devon Energy, which evolved from a minor political player to a major lobbying force during the Obama administration. With Pruitt leading EPA, Devon is making headway in its fight against federal environmental regulation, Hiroko Tabuchi and Eric Lipton report:

In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion.

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen. Continue Reading

Former Accountant Accused of Stealing $2.6 Million After Federal Probe of Oklahoma Beef Council

A long line of cattle are herded into a semi-trailer at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A long line of cattle are herded into a semi-trailer at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.

A former accountant and compliance officer for the Oklahoma Beef Council faces federal bank fraud and false tax return charges after an probe into suspected embezzlement of more than $2.6 million.

The Beef Council, which is funded by a mandatory $1-per-head “check-off” fee paid every time ranchers and producers sell an animal, filed a civil lawsuit in October 2016 against the former employee, Melissa Morton. The charges come after an investigation from Harvest Public Media and StateImpact, which obtained an internal audit detailing the alleged embezzlement. Continue Reading

Group Defending Vertical Wells Digs In As Major Oil Groups Reach Deal to Expand Horizontal Drilling

Pete Brown of Kingfisher oil company Brown & Borelli and former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas speak out against legislation to expand horizontal drilling at a Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance media event.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Pete Brown of Kingfisher oil company Brown & Borelli and former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas speak out against legislation to expand horizontal drilling at a Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance media event.

Oklahoma oil executives have argued for years over a new law that would let companies drill and frack longer horizontal wells in new areas.

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EPA Considers Shutting Down Oil Sites Months After Leak and Dead Wildlife Found in Osage County

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may ask three oil and gas companies to shut down disposal wells as investigators look for the source of a saltwater leak that has plagued the area for nine months.

Local ranchers and inspectors toured the Bird Creek contamination site on the Chapman Ranch last week, the Tulsa World‘s Kelly Bostian reports:

The EPA will ask producers for daily production reports and may temporarily shut down operations, Coleman said. The EPA is planning dye tests and also is bringing in remote samplers to closely monitor the stream, he said. Continue Reading

New Law Plows Funding Path for Locally Grown Food to Fill Urban Grocery Gaps

Sherry Laskey stands near land she bought in a north Tulsa neighborhood. Laskey is hoping to turn the empty lot into a profitable community garden that provides healthy food for the area.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Sherry Laskey stands near land she bought in a north Tulsa neighborhood. Laskey is hoping to turn the empty lot into a profitable community garden that provides healthy food for the area.

Low-income areas of rural Oklahoma are blotched with food deserts, where fresh, healthy food options are scarce. It’s a problem in cities, too, but entrepreneurs, educators and legislators say newly signed legislation could help fill grocery gaps with community gardens.

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Legislature Approves ‘Critical Infrastructure’ Bill Critics Say Could Curb Public Protest

A bill that adds steep criminal penalties for trespassing on sites containing “critical infrastructure” cleared its final legislative hurdle Wednesday and now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

For more on House Bill 1123, here’s our story from March 2017.

Oklahoma Bill To Protect ‘Critical Infrastructure’ Could Curb Public Protest, Critics Say

Oklahoma legislators are advancing a bill that outlaws trespassing on sites containing “critical infrastructure.” Supporters say the measure will help prevent damage and disruption of energy markets, electric grids and water services, but environmental activists and civil rights groups say the bill’s real purpose is to block political protests of pipelines and similar projects. Continue Reading

‘Mad Scientists’ at Oklahoma March Urge Lawmakers to Stop Underfunding and Undermining Research

Oklahomans joined thousands of people in more than 600 cities on Saturday in a march for scientific freedom organized to send a message to state and national lawmakers. Continue Reading

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