StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact Oklahoma is a collaboration of KGOUKOSUKWGS and KCCU. Joe Wertz and Logan Layden travel the state to report on the intersection of government, industry, natural resources and the Oklahoma workforce.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed another suit against the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. This time he’s going after the federal Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions at coal plants, as BloombergBusiness’ Andrew M. Harris reports:

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

Sarah Nichols / Flickr

Gov. Mary Fallin signed controversial legislation in May outlawing municipal bans on fracking and other oil and gas activities. Officials in some communities are re-examining their local drilling ordinances to comply with the law, which goes into effect later this summer.

One city in southeastern Oklahoma, however, isn’t budging.

MEET ‘ORDIE’

When McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison first heard state lawmakers were writing a law to end citywide bans on fracking and drilling, he contacted his state representative. He then called local leaders in other cities and, later, penned a protest letter to Fallin.

It didn’t work. The bill was signed into law May 29. Harrison’s final move was writing a eulogy, dubbed “Requiem for an Ordinance: 1974-2015.”

“Ordie, as I like to call him, never caused trouble for anyone while he was here. Leastwise, I never heard a complaint,” Harrison says, reciting the sarcastic ode, which was published in the mayor’s newsletter.

Since 2011, one of the ways the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation has dealt with budget cuts has been to close state parks or transfer them to new managers, like tribal governments or nearby towns.

A story detailing how University of Oklahoma officials sought a $25 million donation from an oil executive while scientists at the school formulated a state agency’s position on oil and gas-triggered earthquakes is under fire from both the university president and the billionaire oilman.

In a Tulsa World story by Randy Krehbiel, OU President David Boren called a recent piece by EnergyWire’s Mike Sorgahan “a bald-faced lie and some of the most inaccurate reporting I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Gmeador / Flickr

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to curb mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants across the country.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Honeybees are dying at an alarming rate across the country, but no state lost a greater percentage of its bees than Oklahoma over the last year. When it comes to the general public, there’s a lot of mystery around this issue, but the reasons are becoming more clear.

Nathalie Steinhauer from the Bee Informed Partnership at the University of Maryland says the biggest threat to bees comes from varroa mites that came to the U.S. from Asia in the 1990s.

“This is definitely enemy number one for bees around the world,” Steinhauer says. “The second major cause of death would be poor nutrition and habitat loss. Certainly, in areas of the world where we have intense agricultural practices, we have a lot of monocultures and reduction of natural habitat. And then finally pesticide is also one of the top three causes of honeybee colony loss.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The vast majority of Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes occurred in areas where the energy industry pumped underground massive amounts of waste fluid byproducts of oil and gas production, scientists write in a new paper published Thursday.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

May 2015 was Oklahoma’s wettest month on record. The historic rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that haunted parts of the state for five years. For many wheat farmers in southwestern Oklahoma, however, the record rainfall is too much, too late.

To find a farmer in the wide, unbroken prairie of southwest Oklahoma, scan the horizon and look for clouds — of dust. In a field five miles south of Altus, Fred Schmedt peers through the haze and watches a gray-and-black combine pull alongside a tractor with a grain cart.

Schmedt grins as the bin fills.

“We’re really tickled to death,” he says.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

It was around this time last year that the Norman City Council decided to stake its water future on reuse — sending cleaned wastewater back into Lake Thunderbird, the city’s main water source. It’s an ambitious, future-looking plan Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal says is in line with the state’s goal of using no more water in 2060 than it did in 2012.

But Norman isn’t the only city that relies on Lake Thunderbird for its water, and Midwest City and Del City would also need to be behind the plan before it goes before the Department of Environmental Quality for approval.

They aren’t.

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