StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact Oklahoma
7:53 am
Thu February 12, 2015

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.
Credit State of Oklahoma

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

LOCAL CONCERNS

In southeast Oklahoma, it’s easy to find people who are passionate about water, like Chuck Hutchinson with Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy.

“The town of Clayton lost their economic base [when Sardis Lake was built],” Hutchinson says. “Now they’ve converted over the years to a tourism base because of the lake. Now if they take the water out, they’re going to lose twice.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:57 am
Thu February 5, 2015

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

A wind turbine under assembly near Balko in Oklahoma's Panhandle. When completed, the turbine will be part of Apex Energy's 300-megawatt Balko Wind Project.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

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.

FILLING IN THE TRANSMISSION GAP

Despite being one of the state’s richest sources of wind energy, the Oklahoma Panhandle is home to very few wind farms.

Carroll Beaman knows why. The fourth-generation farmer was born during the height of the Dust Bowl and still owns the homestead his family settled shortly after the turn of the century.

“It’s very sparsely settled,” he says. “No industry, except for some of the oil and gas, so it’s never had transmission.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:12 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

As Authorities Use Permit Process to Scrutinize Wells, Oil Industry Remains Silent

Oil-field workers in November 2014 tending to American Energy-Woodford's Judge South well near Perkins, Okla., shortly after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered it temporarily shut-in.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As earthquakes continue to rattle Oklahoma and scientists study links to oil and gas production, many Oklahomans want to know what, if anything, is being done to address the shaking.

An investigation by StateImpact shows that while authorities are quietly scrutinizing wells in quake-prone parts of the state, most of the companies that operate the wells are staying silent.

Marla’s Salon looks like a little house. It has a fence and a yard and a collie keeping watch at the door. Inside, the owner, Marla Stevens, snips and blow-dries. There’s buzzing in the salon, too, including clatter from hair clippers and chatter about earthquakes.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:15 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Drought-Stricken Oklahoma Communities Dealing With Prospect of Dead Lakes

Will Archer, manager of the Mountain Park Master Conservancy District, at the Tom Steed Reservoir dam.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Most of western Oklahoma is in its fifth year of drought with still no end in sight, despite a wetter-than-normal-end to 2014.  And many of the lakes communities rely on for drinking water are now on the verge of being too low to use. The situation is most dire in Altus, Duncan and Canton.

TOM STEED LAKE

The granite boulders and outcroppings that surround Lake Tom Steed, near Altus, are what make is so uniquely beautiful. They also tell a story of drought. The rocks are stained with the remnants of water that used to be here. For lake manager Will Archer, this is all very personal.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the creeks I always played on when I was a kid, they don’t run anymore,” Archer says. “Tom Steed is the life and the blood of southwest Oklahoma. Right now we’re providing 100 percent of the water to Altus. We’re providing over half of the water supply to Frederick. We’re providing, I think, about half the water supply to Snyder.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:34 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Oil-field Workers and Economists in Oklahoma Hope Crashing Crude Prices are a Blip, Not a Bust

Chad Igo owns Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., which delievers food to workers in the oil patch.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The sign on the front door says “closed,” but Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., is open for business. Out back, a tractor-trailer is being unloaded. Giant cans of green beans, tomatoes and mushrooms are hauled inside, where they’re sorted and stacked on metal shelves.

In the kitchen, Jennifer Etris pours a carton of buttermilk into a giant bowl and stirs.

“I cheat,” she says. “I use two of these ranch dressing mixes instead of one. It is known all over the world, my ranch dressing.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:39 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Duncan Bans All Outdoor Watering as Waurika Lake Levels Continue to Fall

The December 30, 2014 update of the U.S. Drought Monitor for Oklahoma.
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

The drought in southwest Oklahoma has lingered for more than four years now, and it will take more than a wet end to 2014 to stop it — a lot more.

Despite receiving above average December precipitation, the City of Duncan will ban all outdoor watering beginning next week. That’s because water levels in Waurika Lake, Duncan’s only current drinking water source, continue to drop.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:30 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Crowd Rallies for Clean Water as Norman Committee Considers New Drilling Rules

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

About 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the Norman City Hall Wednesday evening before the city council’s oversight committee met to discuss changes to the Norman’s oil and gas drilling regulations.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Oklahoma City Residents Question Lake Hefner Drilling Plan at Contentious Public Meeting

A representative for Pedestal Oil Company explains the Lake Hefner drilling proposal to a crowd gathered in the Ed Lycan Conservatory at Will Rogers Gardens.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A rowdy crowd of concerned residents shouted at city officials and questioned representatives of an oil company at a Thursday night meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

Hundreds showed up for the meeting, which was held at the Will Rogers Conservatory, a venue that was too small for the crowd. People formed a long line and waited in the rain to attend a second overflow meeting held immediately following the first meeting. Protestors gathered outside the building, chanting “Stop fracking now,” and “No more drilling.” 
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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:44 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Risk Associated With Dam Failures Grows in Oklahoma, But Safety Funding Lags

Families and a fisherman along the spillway beneath Broken Bow Dam in southeastern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has nearly 5,000 dams, more than most other states. When they were built, they were classified based on the risk their failure would pose to people and property.

But for many dams, it’s been decades since that risk was evaluated, and the potential hazard has changed because Oklahoma has changed. There are houses, roads and people where there weren’t before.

How did Oklahoma get so far behind in the dam reclassification game?

Mainly, the cost. Reclassifying dams into proper categories — low, significant or high-hazard, if loss of life could result in a dam’s failure — is expensive and time consuming. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board oversees the state’s dam safety program, and Director Yohanes Sugeng is trying to meet a pressing public safety need without a lot of money.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
4:49 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

NY Times: Pruitt a Leader in ‘Secretive Alliance’ Between Attorneys General and Energy Industry

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt prepares to greet Gov. Mary Fallin at the 2013 State of the State address at the state capitol.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have formed an ‘unprecedented, secretive alliance’ with the energy industry to fight federal environmental regulations, The New York Times Eric Lipton reports

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