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.
StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 full-length radio features and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.
On of the first broadcast stories we filed this year was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, and how pollution from Texas coal plants dirties the skies above the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma. Volunteer firefighter and avid hiker Bill Cunningham took us to the top of Mount Scott to show us the pollution the rules are supposed to fight.
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.
The so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ designation is the federal government’s attempt to define which bodies of water qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The EPA is trying to tweak that definition. And it’s got farmers like Mason Bolay worried.
Water supplies in southwest Oklahoma are in danger of drying up as four years of drought drag lake levels to record lows. Some communities are scrambling to supplement their current water sources, while others look for new sources — in Texas.
Estimates say Duncan’s main water source — Lake Waurika — could be too low to use by 2016.
This is part two of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part one is available here.
Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles.
This is part one of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the threats they face.
The six eastern Oklahoma waterways classified as scenic rivers are each examples of the pristine beauty of that part of the state. They’re also tourist magnets. Even on a Monday morning, rowdy Tulsans pile into a bus at Diamondhead Resort and rumble toward the nearest access point into the Illinois River.
“If you have a good group of people and enough alcohol you can make anything fun,” one floater tells StateImpact.
State tourism officials are considering closing or transferring four more state parks. The agency, like many, has had its budget cut over the past four years, but the decision to defund state parks is about more than money.