Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

2015 Water Legislation Divides Oklahoma Politicians by Geography, Not Party

State Senator Eddie Fields' bill would create water planning districts that mirror the OWRB's membership districts.

State of Oklahoma

State Senator Eddie Fields' bill would create water planning districts that mirror the OWRB's membership districts.

After 5 years of drought, Oklahoma’s dwindling water resources have the attention of state lawmakers. There are competing bills to study moving water from southeast Oklahoma to the Altus area, and to encourage self-sufficient, regionally based plans to meet future water needs.

Balancing the interests of Oklahomans who have plenty of water with those who desperately need it is a political fight, but not between Republicans and Democrats.

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“Attorney Sues Energy Companies Seeking Class-action Status for Earthquake Victims in Nine Counties”

Jennifer Lin Cooper filed a lawsuit against two energy companies seeking class-action status for residents of nine counties ‘whose homes have allegedly been damaged by frequent earthquakes,’ the Tulsa World reports.

The suit was filed by attorneys including Scott Poynter, an Arkansas-based attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Prague earthquake victim, Sandra Ladra, currently pending before the state Supreme Court. The suit states that Cooper’s home sustained more than $100,000 in damage from the 2011 Prague earthquakes. She had purchased the home in 2010 for $117,000, the suit states. The lawsuit cites several scientific studies linking earthquakes in Oklahoma with wastewater injection wells. A 2013 study in the journal Geology found a correlation between wastewater injection wells operated by New Dominion and Spess and the Prague earthquakes.

Read more at: www.tulsaworld.com

As Legislators Debate Property Tax Exemption, State Chamber Says Wind Incentives Work

An Oklahoma wind turbine

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An Oklahoma wind turbine

Oklahoma lawmakers have filed legislation reeling in tax credits and economic incentives for the wind industry, which have been described as overly generous and too costly.

One incentive in the crosshairs is a five-year exemption on local property taxes installed in 1985, which is reimbursed by the state to schools, counties and CareerTech centers, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

The state paid $64 million in reimbursements in 2013, with half of the exemptions claimed by wind farms. Total reimbursements rose 39 percent from $46 million in 2012, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Continue Reading

Watch Oklahoma Overtake California in Earthquakes


Oklahoma experienced more than three times as many earthquakes as California last year, an uptick many geophysicists say is likely linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

The Center for Public Integrity’s Reveal team has produced a compelling animation of the shaking, which covers a timeline from 2000-2014. Continue Reading

Tulsa World on Oil Industry and Oklahoma Earthquakes: ‘Science Questioned,’ Studies Unfinished

University of Oklahoma graduate students near Wellston, Okla., installing a seismometer to study central-Oklahoma's earthquake swarm

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma graduate students near Wellston, Okla., installing a seismometer to study central-Oklahoma's earthquake swarm

Reporters Ziva Branstetter and Curtis Killman reviewed hundreds of documents and examined data on Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm for a multi-part story published Sunday in the Tulsa World.

The “Quake Debate”series, presented online in two parts — part one here; part two here — provides a good overview of the earthquake uptick, which many scientists say has likely been caused, at least in part, by wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, as well as the response by industry and state officials. Continue Reading

Watch Oklahoma’s Inhofe and Pruitt Spar With EPA Over ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Rule

A rare joint Congressional hearing in Washington Wednesday took up the issue of “Waters of the United States,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to more clearly define which bodies of water qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act.

Republicans at the hearing — including Oklahoma’s senior senator and state attorney general — are convinced the move is a vast overreach of the EPA’s power that will place everything from ditches to farm ponds under government control.

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Wind Power ‘Superhighway’ Could Help Transform Panhandle Into U.S. Energy Hub

A wind farm under construction near Balko, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A wind turbine under assembly near Balko in Oklahoma's Panhandle. When completed, the turbine will be part of D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments' 300-megawatt Balko Wind Project.

The wind energy boom has largely evaded Oklahoma’s Panhandle, but new turbine projects and a proposal for a $2 billion transmission line could transform the prairie into a national wind energy hub.

But the projects are being planned amid uncertainty at the state Capitol, where tax credits for the wind industry are in the crosshairs.

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“State Orders Injection Well Shut Down After Northwestern Oklahoma Earthquake”

The Corporation Commission ordered SandRidge Energy to shut down a disposal well after earthquakes in Alfalfa County near the Kansas border, the Tulsa World reports.

The commission held a hearing Nov. 26 on SandRidge’s permit application due to staff concerns about earthquakes in the area, records show. SandRidge asked to dispose of up to 80,000 barrels of wastewater per day, or 29 million barrels per year. During the hearing, commission staff testified that the well was one mile from recent earthquakes. SandRidge had agreed to submit additional data to the commission on the amount of wastewater it was disposing and the amount of pressure used in the process.

Read more at: www.tulsaworld.com

Litigation and Low Prices Drill Oil Industry in Osage County


Esteban Monclova / Flickr

After dipping to its lowest level in years, the price of oil may have bottomed out. Reuters reports prices rose again on Tuesday behind expectations of diminished oil supplies. That will come as welcome news, if little consolation, for oil-field service companies in Osage County hard hit by the recent downturn in the industry.

The Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle was at an Osage Producers Association meeting January 31 where “businesspeople and local, state and federal officials met … to hear about the effects of the downturn” and how an ongoing lawsuit against the producers is making a bad situation worse. Continue Reading

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