Year In Review: Low Energy Prices Dominate 2015 Business And Economy News

Dec 18, 2015

The downturn in energy prices dominated the news cycle in Oklahoma in 2015, affecting the bottom line of every oil and natural gas producer, the state’s budget, and had countless trickle-down effects in a state with an economy so reliant on the energy sector.

The price plummet actually started in June 2014, when oil was still above $100 per barrel. They rapidly declined, beginning 2015 at around $55, and currently sit in the $30-40 range.

That forced Chesapeake Energy to lay off 19 percent of its workforce, and more than 500 people in Oklahoma. Tulsa-based Samson Resources laid off 270 people.

It’s been a tumultuous year for SandRidge Energy – their stock price has been below $1 for months, and they could possibly be de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange. They’ve also been affected by new Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulations regarding wastewater injection wells in northern Oklahoma.

Adam Brooks, the managing editor of The Journal Record newspaper, says the recovery time keeps getting pushed back.

“The forecasts at first when energy prices were dropping said by the end of 2016 they'll start to get better,” Brooks said. “Nobody really says 2016 now. Maybe in 2017. I think a lot of these companies are as lean as they can get.”

Brooks said the proposed lifting of the ban on crude oil exports as part of the Congressional spending bill could help oil prices rebound, but it could be awhile before the effects are fully realized.

Algae grow on the floor of the pipe room in the Hugo water plant because water leaks constantly, as shown in this late July photo.
Credit Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

Hugo Water

In August, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo broke a major story involving the water supply in Hugo that led the Department of Environmental Quality levying the largest environmental fine in state history.

The UK-based company Severn Trent manages the water supply for about 7,000 Hugo residents, and inspectors found the facilities had broken equipment, substandard chlorination practices, and issues involving recordkeeping in the city.

Severn Trent is fighting the lawsuit, and Hugo citizens have filed a lawsuit, and are seeking class action status.

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