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environment

Benji and Lori White in a pasture at their ranch near Putnam, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Benji White pulls into a field and honks his horn. Before the shifter hits park and the doors close behind him and his wife Lori, the silver Ford pickup is surrounded by dozens of Red Angus eager for a handout of cattle cake, a protein-dense pellet.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A district court judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit accusing an Tulsa oil company of being responsible for damage caused by earthquakes.

Norman City Council Checks Out Plastic Bag Fee

May 16, 2018
Storme Jones / KGOU

For many, a trip the the grocery store ends by walking out to the car with a basket full of food in plastic bags. And if you’ve tossed those bags into the recycling cart after you get home, you’re likely contributing to a problem for recycling facilities.  

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are expanding rules designed to reduce earthquake activity triggered by fracking. Updated guidelines released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission put new requirements on companies operating in two of the state’s most booming oil fields.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Environmental groups and concerned residents this week told federal officials the Oklahoma agency charged with protecting air, land and water lacked the resources and rules to manage a state-run plan to regulate coal ash.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others.

It’s been two years since state oil and gas regulators adopted a broad regional plan that limits the amount of wastewater pumped into disposal wells in quake-prone areas. The good news: It appears to be working. After peaking in 2015, earthquakes became a lot less frequent.

StateImpact Oklahoma: A Look at 2018

Dec 28, 2017
StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.
StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact is following important  policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Health

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new report from hundreds of experts and more than a dozen federal agencies is stark: Humans are likely responsible for the warmest period in modern civilization.

The consequences of this warming vary regionally, but scientists and researchers forecast significant effects in Oklahoma and other southern plains states.

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road.

Oklahoma City has water storage rights at Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma. To get it, the city plans to divert water that flows from the lake into the Kiamichi River and pump it more than a hundred miles northwest to the metro.

A tagged Monarch butterfly on a flowering lantana plant at the Oklahoma City.
CARE_SMC / Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Stephanie Henson admires her colorful backyard garden in Edmond. Approaching a pink-and-white plant, she squeals and laughs and she spots some butterflies.

“Oh look, they’re itty-bitty,” she says. “Look at ’em!”

Henson doesn’t know much about gardening, but she’s doing what she can to attract butterflies, which is what conservation specialists and government officials are trying to encourage here in Oklahoma and across the country.

A truck filled with chat transports mining waste to a nearby repository near Picher, Okla. Some of it is processed and reused for asphalt, while the most contaminated chat is taken to specially designed landfills for long-term storage. More than 180 truck
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Newly minted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spent his first months on the job steering the agency away from climate change to focus, in part, on cleaning up contaminated sites around the country.

The former Oklahoma attorney general has directed a task force to create a top-10 list of locations that need aggressive attention — welcome news at Superfund sites like Tar Creek in the northeastern corner of the state.

Bill Davis / Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

A temporary mass migration that could reach into the millions is expected as people across the United States relocate to catch a prime view of the country’s first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century.

In this May 16, 2013 file photo, Chinese demonstrators hold banners as they participate in a protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming, in southwestern China's Yunnan province.
Aritz Parra / AP

China’s environmental movement is one of the few areas in which Chinese citizens can generally speak their mind, according to documentary filmmaker and journalist Gary Marcuse.

Marcuse, whose documentary Waking the Green Tiger explores the demonstrations that blocked a dam project in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, says there are between 50,000 and 100,000 environmental demonstrations every year in China. Many citizens protest the country’s high levels of smog and other environmental issues.

Susan Holmes stands on the front porch of her home in Bokoshe, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The tiny community of Bokoshe is flanked by old mines, which companies are filling with thousands of tons of waste produced by the coal-fired power plant down the road.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam stands on the bank of the Blue River in south-central Oklahoma.  He said budget cuts will result in more staff reductions at the agency.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The $6.9 billion budget signed last week by Gov. Mary Fallin delivers 5 percent cuts to most state agencies. On paper, it looks like two environmental agencies received funding boosts,  but a closer look at the numbers shows the increases aren’t what they appear.

Pete Brown of Kingfisher oil company Brown & Borelli and former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas speak out against legislation to expand horizontal drilling at a Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance media event.
Joe Wertz / State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil executives have argued for years over a new law that would let companies drill and frack longer horizontal wells in new areas.

Right now, companies with leases in non-shale rock formations can’t drill horizontal wells more than a mile long. This one-mile limit is frustrating many of the most active drillers in Oklahoma, who say companies, shareholders, mineral owners and the state’s tax coffers are missing out on millions in new development from booming oil fields. The potential is a promising political incentive, given the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower in New York on December 7, 2016.
Andrew Harnik / AP

Donald Trump wants Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma attorney general is a fierce ally of fossil fuel companies and one of the EPA’s biggest opponents. The nomination draws a sharp line dividing industry and environmentalists that could test the limits of another big fight: state sovereignty.

A Republican president created the EPA. Using words and phrases that, today, might jeopardize his career before it ever left a state GOP primary, Richard Nixon urged Congress to sign off on what he called his “environmental agenda.”

An amateur astronomer looks at chart on a red-filtered computer monitor at the 2016 Okie-Tex Star Party near Oklahoma's Black Mesa State Park.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Panhandle is empty and hard to get to. The region attracts few people, very little industry and none of the light pollution that accompany both. It’s a remote location that’s earning a national reputation as the perfect spot to stare deep into space.

Terry Zimmerman adjusts the eyepiece on the 12.5-inch f5 Dobsonian he built from a kit — technical talk for a telescope that’s so tall, you have to climb a stepladder to take a peek.

World Views: July 29, 2016

Jul 29, 2016

Anthropologist Noah Theriault contributes to the blog Inhabiting the Anthropocene, which examines how humans have influenced climate and the environment. He'll discuss this proposed geological epoch with Suzette Grillot.

But first, we check in with Rebecca Cruise, who's in Germany. The country recently saw four violent attacks in less than a week. 

In January 2015, drought stricken Waurika Lake was dangerously low.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a $1 billion hole in the state budget that has consequences for Oklahoma’s environment and natural resources. A controversial state question could pit farmer against farmer. The ground beneath Oklahoma is shaking — figuratively and literally in 2016 — and StateImpact is on it.

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