OG&E Plans Expensive Move Away from Coal to Comply With EPA Rules

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's coal-fired Sooner Plant in Red Rock, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's coal-fired Sooner Plant in Red Rock, Okla.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric — the state’s largest utility — was resistant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, which means to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges, and was part of a challenge to the rule the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear.

So, as The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports, OG&E is — begrudgingly — planning to convert two of its coal-fired units at its Muskogee power plant to natural gas, install air scrubbers at its Sooner plant, and make other changes to comply with federal rules the company says will cause customers’ electricity bills to rise substantially: Continue Reading

Legal Challenge to New Drilling Incentive Could Raise Big Constitutional Questions

A legal challenge to a recently signed bill authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman could have wide-ranging effects.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A legal challenge to a recently signed bill authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman could have wide-ranging effects.

A controversial bill setting the effective tax rate on new oil and gas wells was one of the capstones of the 2014 legislative session.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure on May 28, ending months of intense debate and oil industry lobbying. But the bill is already headed for a legal challenge, and some of the constitutional questions could have a far-reaching effect because they could define the very words and terms lawmakers use to fund government in Oklahoma.

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Norman Narrows Its Options For How To Have Enough Water in 2060

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

Melissa Megginson / Flickr

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, residents in Norman — where the water system is stressed due to population growth and age, and drought has taken a toll on already troubled Lake Thunderbird — heard about the city’s two options for water sustainability through 2060.

The Norman Transcript‘s Joy Hampton reports both options would keep Lake Thunderbird and the city’s wells as the main water sources, and continue the push toward conservation that has already “reduced the per-capita demand.”

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“More Paperwork, More Water: New Rule Could Make Treatment Easier”

Oklahoma is the first state in the country to allow municipalities to use the oil and gas industry’s disposal wells to get rid of wastewater that’s too salty to be released into waterways damaged by drought.

On May 5, 2014, the DEQ and the OCC signed a memorandum of understanding, which creates a dual permitting process for underground injection control wells. The state has about 350 commercial disposal wells permitted by the OCC to accept extremely salty wastewater, which is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction.
Tahmessebi said the dual-permitting process will lay the groundwork for more water treatment, as well as the possibility for desalination projects.

Read more at: journalrecord.com

Oklahoma Attorney General Ready to Fight EPA Proposal to Cut Carbon Emissions

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant was part of more than $80 million in renovations done at OG&E coal plants between 2003-2006.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency on Monday announced an ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at existing coal-fired power plants across the country as part of President Barack Obama’s push to curb climate change.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt blasted the move, saying in a statement the plan “has no legal basis or the force of law.”

“It will undoubtedly lead to higher electricity rates, job losses and increased manufacturing costs as coal-fired power plants, which provide 40 percent of our baseload power, are taken offline,” Pruitt says.

But officials with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Oklahoma says keeping the current rules unchanged will be more costly because communities are already paying to deal with carbon pollution-fueled “climate disruption,” like flooding, wildfires and extreme heat.

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To Get Permit in Earthquake Zone, Disposal Well Operator Agrees to Extra Monitoring

An oil company seeking to build a disposal well in earthquake-prone Logan County has agreed to record additional pressure and volume measurements to get a permit from the state’s oil and gas regulator.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday voted 2-0 to approve the disposal well for Kansas-based Slawson Exploration. Commissioner Dana Murphy abstained from the vote “saying she wanted to wait until more seismic data was available,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Slawson agreed to record daily pressure and volume rates on the disposal well. It also will run a bottom-hole pressure test prior to injection and every 60 days for up to six months.

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StateImpact on OETA: Possible Lawsuit Over Recently Signed Drilling Incentive

I was on Oklahoma News Report last week to discuss the controversial tax incentive for oil and gas drilling, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed on May 28.

The bill is likely to draw a legal challenge from an Oklahoma City attorney, who says it’s a “revenue bill” that was passed without some of the legislative burdens added to the Oklahoma Constitution in 1992 with the voter-approved State Question 640.

The episode first aired on May 23. StateImpact’s segment is embedded above.

Drought in Southwest Oklahoma Dented But Not Dead After Days of Rain

The May 27th update of the U.S. Drought Monitor showing some improvement in southwest Oklahoma.

U.S. DROUGHT MONITOR

The May 27th update of the U.S. Drought Monitor showing some improvement in southwest Oklahoma.

The latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows some improvement in the hardest hit part of the state — southwest Oklahoma — after a very wet Memorial Day weekend.

Drovers CattleNetwork’s Angela Bowman looked at the impact recent rains have had across the southern plains, and found that while the last week helped, it won’t take long for drought to fully reassert itself, and it’s too late for the state’s wheat crop:

In nearby Oklahoma, conditions also improved with last week’s rain, falling from 61 percent in extreme or worse drought to 55 percent. Even so, the drought has already decimated Oklahoma’s wheat crop.

NewsChannel Four’s Aaron Bracket says Oklahoma has not seen a drought like this in decades.

Bracket said, “You know this drought really is exceptional. We’re talking something we haven’t seen, in not just years, but decades in parts of Southwestern [Oklahoma].”

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What Became of the Bills StateImpact Was Watching This Legislative Session?

The Oklahoma Senate

Becky McCray / Flickr

The Oklahoma Senate

From the start of the legislative session on February 3rd, StateImpact Oklahoma had its eye on what was sure to be a heated issue: the coming expiration of a tax credit for horizontally drilled oil and gas wells. Without action, rates would go from one-percent for the first four years of a well’s life, back to 7 percent.

Democrats like Representative Richard Morrissette argued companies don’t drill for oil and gas because of tax breaks, and it can’t be assumed they have the best interest of Oklahomans at heart.

“The jobs are here, because they’ve got to get the gold out of the ground,” Morrissette said on the House floor. “They’re not doing it because of the love of country and state. They’re doing it for the love of the dollar bill.”

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Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Controversial Tax Incentive for New Oil and Gas Wells

Rig crews on a Helmerich & Payne operation in western Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crews working on a drilling rig in western Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed a bill that makes permanent a generous tax incentive for new oil and gas drilling.

The controversial measure, House Bill 2562, was forged as lawmakers and energy company executives debated the appropriate tax rate for the industry, which drives much of the state’s economy. Oil and gas groups lobbied hard for the bill, as did executives from three of the state’s largest oil and gas companies, who argued the incentive would help Oklahoma compete with other states for drilling.

“The new 2 percent tax rate is fair to the state and sends a clear message to energy producers worldwide: Oklahoma is the place for energy production and investment.” Fallin said in a statement. “We want to be a leader in this field not just today but for decades to come.”

Several other high-profile energy executives, however, said taxes and incentives had little bearing on where or whether they drilled. Continue Reading

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