Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

“Former CEO Charged With Rigging Bids For Oil And Gas Leases”

Aubrey McClendon, the founder and former CEO of Chesapeake Energy was charged Tuesday with orchestrating a conspiracy not to compete for oil and gas leases in northwest Oklahoma, the Justice Department said.

The DOJ explained in a statement:

During this conspiracy, which ran from December 2007 to March 2012, the conspirators would decide ahead of time who would win the leases. The winning bidder would then allocate an interest in the leases to the other company. McClendon instructed his subordinates to execute the conspiratorial agreement, which included, among other things, withdrawing bids for certain leases and agreeing on the allocation of interests in the leases between the conspiring companies.

Read more at: www.npr.org

“Oil Company Sues Nine Counties, Schools Could Be Out Thousands”

The lawsuit by Denver-based DCP Midstream claims tax assessors in nine Oklahoma counties “charged them the wrong amount in property taxes,” KOCO’s Crystal Price reports.

The taxes from the company impact multiple schools in Grady County, and county officials told KOCO these districts could lose thousands of dollars as a result of this lawsuit.

Alex Public Schools Superintendent Jason James said his district will be out $192,000 as a result DCP Midstream’s property tax protest.

“That’s money that we counted on to pay our bills, to hire teachers and to buy books, and we’re just not going to get it,” James said.

Read more at: www.koco.com

Another Oklahoma State Park Cast Off As Department Of Tourism Takes More Cuts

Gary Vanarsdel and Dannie Caldwell wrap up a day on the lake at Dripping Springs State Park near Okmulgee, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gary Vanarsdel and Dannie Caldwell wrap up a day on the lake at Dripping Springs State Park near Okmulgee, Okla.

Tourism is Oklahoma’s third largest industry behind energy and agriculture. State parks are big reason why. But the number of parks is dwindling after years of budget cuts at the Department of Tourism. And more cuts are on the way.

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Brockovich Talks Earthquakes, Water During Forum at University of Central Oklahoma

“Environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich brought a message of community empowerment to a packed forum Tuesday evening on the escalating number of earthquakes in Oklahoma,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

An overflow crowd at University of Central Oklahoma’s Constitution Hall also heard from the forum’s organizer, Rep. Richard Morrissette, that he plans to run for the Democratic nomination to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. That position is currently held by Republican Dana Murphy, who was elected to a six-year term in 2010.

Morrissette criticized the Corporation Commission for what he said was a slow response to the links between saltwater disposal wells and man-made earthquakes. He called the commission a “deep black box” with no transparency.

Read more at: www.oklahoman.com

Legislature Considers Cutting a Wind Industry Tax Credit Spared During Last Year’s Negotiations on Incentives

The Chisholm View wind farm near Hunter, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Chisholm View wind farm near Hunter, Okla.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill in May 2015 ending a program that afforded many wind developers a five-year exemption on property taxes. The measure, Senate Bill 498, authored by Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, was projected to save the state $500 million over 10 years by sunsetting an ad valorem exemption on Jan. 1 2017.

In signing the bill — filed during a legislative session where incentives for the wind industry were the subject of frequent lawmaker scrutiny and strident negotiation from the wind industry — Fallin noted that wind developers “still would have millions of dollars in benefits from the zero-emission tax credit, tied to pollution-free energy.”

But that credit, too, now appears to be on the chopping block, as the state scrambles to patch a $1.3 billion budget gap, The Oklahoman’s Rick Green reportsContinue Reading

The Promise and Peril of $1 Gasoline in Oil-Rich Oklahoma

Employee Gene Howell and co-owner Ross Ledbetter at Reeder's Auto and Tire in Midtown Tulsa, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Employee Gene Howell and co-owner Ross Ledbetter at Reeder's Auto and Tire in Midtown Tulsa, Okla.

Crashing crude oil prices are fueling big bargains for American motorists, who are driving away with tanks full of inexpensive gasoline. Today, the national average is $1.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Oklahoma could be one of the first places in the country to see gas prices dip below $1 a gallon.

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Sierra Club Files Federal Lawsuit Against Three Energy Companies Over Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas

Click here to read the Sierra Club's lawsuit.

Click here to read the Sierra Club's lawsuit.

The Sierra Club filed a federal lawsuit today against three Oklahoma energy companies over earthquakes linked to oil and gas production.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Oklahoma City, accuses Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and New Dominion of operating wastewater injection wells that have contributed to a massive spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas.

The environmental group wants the court to order cutbacks at injection wells and force oil companies to reinforce vulnerable buildings. The suit also seeks the creation of an independent earthquake monitoring center.

The shaking is the subject of several lawsuits at the state level, but this is first action filed in federal court. Continue Reading

“Largest Earthquake Since 2011 Rattles Oklahoma Saturday Morning”

Steve Foster, the emergency manager for Woods County, said no injuries or major damage were reported from the intense Saturday quake or its aftershocks.

A strong earthquake rocked Oklahoma Saturday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey’s initial estimate places the quake at a magnitude 5.1, while the Oklahoma Geological Survey estimates 4.8. Why State And Federal Agencies Record Different Oklahoma Earthquake Numbers Semi-regular reminder that preliminary #okquake magnitude numbers are often revised. Up and down.

Read more at: kgou.org

State Budget Crisis Could Leave Small Towns With Big Infrastructure Problems ‘Dead in the Water’

Corn, Okla., Mayor Barbara Nurnberg outside city hall in January 2016.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Corn, Okla., Mayor Barbara Nurnberg outside city hall in January 2016.

It costs a lot of money to clean, transport and dispose of water. Big cities can spread the cost of multi-million dollar sewer or treatment projects across thousands of customers. But many small Oklahoma towns don’t have that option, and often rely on a state-funded grant program that’s being squeezed by budget cuts.

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