Oklahoma voters have at least a year before seeing ads for and against state questions on the ballot in November 2016. But you might want to get used to hearing this phrase now: right-to-farm.
It‚Äôs a divisive national¬†issue that‚Äôs made its way to the Sooner State,¬†one that puts agriculture at odds with environmentalists and animal rights advocates.
In Missouri,¬†it was a fight¬†between two sides that loathe each other. The right-to-farm amendment narrowly passed there in 2014, and not until after a recount. Part of Missouri‚Äôs constitution now¬†reads like this: ‚ÄúThe right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state.‚ÄĚ
A bill adding new regulations and oversight of Oklahoma‚Äôs booming wind industry passed a House committee on Tuesday.
House Bill 1549, one of several bills filed in the 2015 Legislature that target the wind industry, places limits on where companies can build new wind farms. The proposed measure would prevent new wind farms from being built near schools, hospitals or airports.
The bill was written by Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. He says landowners and the wind industry were consulted when crafting the legislation.
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo¬†announced a statewide ban¬†on fracking in 2014, Oklahoma Rep. Casey Murdock took notice. After voters in the city of Denton, Texas ‚ÄĒ just 40 miles south of the Oklahoma state line ‚ÄĒ¬†approved a fracking ban¬†in the Nov. 4 election, the Republican representative from Felt took action.
‚ÄúThere is your anti-oil group,‚ÄĚ the freshman lawmaker says. ‚ÄúWe have activists outside the state that have come in and they‚Äôre pushing in these college cities.‚ÄĚ
Murdock‚Äôs measure,¬†House Bill 1395, is one of at least eight ‚Äúlocal control‚ÄĚ bills under consideration by the 2015 Legislature. The bills differ in the details, but they all limit, in some way, the power municipalities have to regulate oil and gas drilling or related activities, like fracking.
After 5 years of drought, Oklahoma‚Äôs 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
‚ÄúThe town of Clayton lost their economic base [when Sardis Lake was built],‚ÄĚ Hutchinson says. ‚ÄúNow they‚Äôve converted over the years to a tourism base because of the lake. Now if they take the water out, they‚Äôre going to lose twice.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs buzzing in the salon, too, including clatter from hair clippers and chatter about earthquakes.
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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve lived here my whole life, and the creeks I always played on when I was a kid, they don‚Äôt run anymore,‚ÄĚ Archer says. ‚ÄúTom Steed is the life and the blood of southwest Oklahoma. Right now we‚Äôre providing 100 percent of the water to Altus. We‚Äôre providing over half of the water supply to Frederick. We‚Äôre providing, I think, about half the water supply to Snyder.‚ÄĚ
The sign on the front door says ‚Äúclosed,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôre sorted and stacked on metal shelves.
In the kitchen, Jennifer Etris pours a carton of buttermilk into a giant bowl and stirs.
‚ÄúI cheat,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI use two of these ranch dressing mixes instead of one. It is known all over the world, my ranch dressing.‚ÄĚ
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 ‚ÄĒ a lot more.
Despite receiving above average December precipitation, the City of Duncan will ban all outdoor watering beginning next week. That‚Äôs because water levels in Waurika Lake, Duncan‚Äôs only current drinking water source, continue to drop.