oil

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

It's a Saturday at Choctaw High School, but for hundreds of Oklahoma teachers, there's a training class in session. Carrie Miller-DeBoer perches atop a stool monitoring a pair of soda bottles linked with a small length of thin plastic tubing created to mimic enhanced oil recovery, while teaching chemistry fundamentals.

"I love it and my students will be so excited," she says.

More than half the oil and gas a typical horizontal well will produce over its lifetime in Oklahoma is pumped to the surface during its first three years, a new report from Oklahoma Watch shows.

Oil's Pipeline to America's Schools

Jun 16, 2017
ILLUSTRATION BY EBEN MCCUE

Jennifer Merritt’s first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests, state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn.

In a late-night committee meeting on Monday, lawmakers passed a measure that raises the gross production tax rate from one percent to four percent, but only on a small, select group of oil wells.

Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston), who is carrying House Bill 2429, says it will bring about $95 million in to the state. The bill would only affect about 5,790 wells drilled between July 2011 and July 2015.

A few weeks ago Julia Chapman's daughter was heading to a playdate across the street in their recently built suburb in Firestone, Colo. Suddenly, the friend's house exploded, killing two of the friend's relatives who were in the basement.

"It shook our home," Chapman says. "We came out and we saw that it was essentially just collapsed on itself. The insulation was still floating in the air, down the street."

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

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

Right now, companies with leases in non-shale rock formations can’t drill horizontal wells more than a mile long. This one-mile limit is frustrating many of the most active drillers in Oklahoma who say companies, shareholders, mineral owners and the state’s tax coffers are missing out on millions in new development from booming oil fields. The potential is a promising political incentive, given the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2017 legislative session is beyond the halfway point and the clock is ticking on lawmakers who have until the end of May to set the state’s budget and plug an $870 million funding hole. Legislators say every option is on the table, including one with growing public support: Increasing taxes on oil and gas.

First, it was state Democrats like minority leader Scott Inman, who have long argued Oklahoma’s taxes are too generous for oil and gas companies.

A group of small oil and natural gas producers in Oklahoma have formed an alliance and are asking the Legislature to increase the gross production tax back to 7 percent, saying the industry is committed to helping solve the state's budget crisis.

The Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance announced Monday it plans to ask lawmakers to get rid of a generous tax cut on oil and natural gas production that was approved by the Legislature in 2014. That bill dropped the tax rate from 7 percent to 2 percent for the first few years of production, when oil and gas wells are most profitable.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in a rushed vote by the Senate last Friday, after Democrats pushed to delay the vote.

Democrats knew that there was a batch of about 3,000 of Pruitt's emails from his time as Oklahoma chief legal officer, supposedly showing his close ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Emails made public Wednesday show newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt coordinated with the fossil fuel industry and political groups to fight federal environmental regulations when he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

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