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AM NewsBrief: Aug. 31, 2022

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt holds $1000-per-plate fundraiser while anti-turnpike protestors demonstrate outside

Supporters of Gov. Kevin Stitt were met with a barrage of turnpike protestors outside a Tuesday morning campaign fundraising luncheon. The governor — whose event advertised a suggested $1,000 donation per plate — did not acknowledge the demonstrators.

"I would just like to say, a man of integrity would walk out here, walk on those steps, come down on the grass knoll and say, ‘I want to talk to you,'" said one demonstrator.

About twenty protestors from the anti-turnpike organization Pike Off OTA demonstrated outside of the fundraiser held at the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors. Most demonstrators are residents whose homes are in the paths of several proposed turnpike routes near Norman. Protestors Roberta Provost and Terrie Clubb say this issue has lost the governor their votes.

"I’m Republican. Believe me, I’m not voting for him this year. I’ll vote Democrat," said Provost.

"I’m a Republican, and he’s going to force me to vote for a Democrat," Clubb said.

They say they’re frustrated Stitt isn’t following the state Republican party platform, which explicitly calls for a moratorium on new turnpikes until all of the others are paid off.

Oklahoma awarded $25 million to seal nearly 1,200 abandoned oil and gas wells

The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded Oklahoma an initial $25 million to help address legacy pollution caused by orphaned oil and gas wells left abandoned across the state. The funds will be utilized to plug nearly 1,200 documented, orphaned wells on state, federal, private, and tribal lands.

Department of the Interior Infrastructure Coordinator Winnie Stachelberg said there are a number of abandoned oil and gas wells in Oklahoma — but some of the most powerful stories can be found at the Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge.

"There was a huge abandoned oil well that was leaching methane oil into the land around it, which then fed into the streams. So, anyone who was fishing was going to run into the toxicity in the water.”

Stachelberg said the area is also home to a number of different wildlife species who have been negatively impacted by the abandoned well.

White House Infrastructure Coordinator and Senior Advisor to the President Mitch Landrieu said he's seen different parts of Oklahoma littered by the remains of an industry that walked away from its commitment to sustainability.

"These things are not just in remote areas where folks don't live by," Landrieu explained. "These things are in peoples front yards and backyards, and streams where kids play and people fish, and it is really a travesty that they've been left behind."

Landrieu said state oil and gas regulators intend to work with other state agencies to identify tracks in overburdened communities that need remediation. Officials will also be working closely with federally recognized tribes to plug wells abandoned within their historic boundaries.

Monkeypox vaccines available at OKC County Health Department

Oklahoma county health departments are beginning to receive their order of monkeypox vaccines. 

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is offering vaccines only by appointment - which can be made by calling 405-419-4200. 

The state is currently vaccinating people who’ve been exposed to monkeypox or might encounter the virus at work. Exposure includes prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone confirmed to have monkeypox or being at an event where the virus was present. 

The CDC finds Oklahoma has had 22 confirmed cases of monkeypox, and over 18,000 nationwide.

Marijuana State Question lawsuit

The Oklahoma Supreme Court could play a major role in determining whether Oklahomans get to vote on recreational marijuana this year.

Recreational marijuana supporters are fighting to get the question on this year’s ballot, as opposed to having voters wait up to two years. The issue is going before the state’s highest court soon.

State Question 820 would legalize cannabis for all adults 21 and older — not just ones with a medical card. It would also create a legal process for Oklahomans to modify, reverse or expunge any convictions related to low-level marijuana offenses.

Proponents gathered the signatures they needed, but according to reporting by Oklahoma Watch, the Secretary of State’s office took several weeks longer than normal to verify those signatures after employing a third-party vendor for the first time. State law requires a 10-business-day protest period after that verification, and it’s looking like by the time all is said and done, it would be too late to get the measure to election officials in time for the November elections.

Proponents asked the Court to step in and get the question onto this year’s ballot. On Tuesday, justices wrote that they will consider the case, but not until that 10-day period is over.

National Indian Gaming Commission reports record-high revenue

A new report shows the losses to tribal gaming revenue during the pandemic have been recovered in the last year.

The National Indian Gaming Commission announced a record-breaking revenue of $39 billion from the 2021 fiscal year during a press conference in Tulsa.

This is a 40% increase from the previous year, which also saw the industry’s greatest decrease in revenue. The commission attributes those losses to COVID-19 related closures.

The NIGC says the financial improvements have not been felt equally by all tribes but the regulatory lessons from the pandemic should help all tribal gaming operations.

Oklahoma has over 130 tribal gaming operations ranging from gas station slot machines to full-scale resort casinos.

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