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AM NewsBrief: July 28, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, July 28, 2023.

Oklahoma Doesn't Have To Implement Federal Smog Plan

Oklahoma’s plan to meet federal smog regulations has been in limbo for months after a rejection from the Environmental Protection Agency and a lawsuit in response to that rejection. The state will not have to implement a stricter federal smog plan in the meantime.

The plan aims to enforce federal air quality standards set in 2015. It covers 23 states, including Oklahoma, that were found to be exporting significant amounts of smog to downwind neighbors. Much of Oklahoma’s smog goes into Texas.

Earlier this year, the EPA rejected Oklahoma’s proposed plan to meet those standards, saying it didn’t contain any permanent and enforceable emissions controls. In lieu of an approved state proposal, the EPA said it would implement a federal smog reduction plan.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond sued in March, calling the EPA’s rejection “burdensome overreach.” Now, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Oklahoma a stay. The state will not have to implement a federal smog reduction plan for now, and Drummond says he’s hopeful the court will eventually decide in his favor.

State Board of Education Delays Accreditation Hearings For Two Schools

Though most schools’ accreditation status was voted on at Thursday’s State School Board meeting, two schools will have to wait until August for their fate to be decided.

Tulsa Public Schools and Infinity Generation Generals Preparatory School out of Oklahoma City will have their accreditation reviewed at next month’s board meeting.

TPS has been under fire from State Superintendent Ryan Walters, who says the “severity” of the district’s issues warrants another month of review before evaluating a potential downgrade.

The state department cites an embezzlement investigation and not turning in prompt reports.

Infinity shut its doors in December and is looking to reopen next month, but the department is recommending the district’s accreditation be pulled for mismanagement.

As a private school, it can still operate without accreditation in Oklahoma.

The district’s superintendent implored the board for another month to present her evidence in defense of the school, and the board agreed to the request unanimously.

Tulsa City Councilors Write Letter To SDE

Four Tulsa city councilors are asking the state not to lower the accreditation status for Tulsa Public Schools.

Councilors Laura Bellis, Vanessa Hall-Harper, Jeannie Cue and Crista Patrick represent much of the TPS district.

Bellis says a downgraded accreditation would hurt efforts to retain businesses in the city.

"We can’t pretend that our city’s future and economy isn’t inextricably bound to the success of our school system," said Bellis.

The city leaders sent a letter to the state Department of Education today.

Bellis added that she isn’t saying T-P-S shouldn’t be held accountable in the accreditation process.

"This is really more about asking for a more collaborative and supportive approach to help Tulsa Public Schools be better."

The councilors’ letter came after state Department of Education officials delayed TPS’ accreditation hearing until August due to the severity of investigative findings.

Oklahoma City Heat Mapping Campaign

Oklahoma City neighborhoods with fewer trees than pavement called urban heat islands can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby areas that have more trees and grass. One project could help policy-makers identify vulnerable areas within the city.

The city’s sustainability office is working with OU and the environmental non-profit organization OKC Beautiful to undertake a heat mapping campaign on Aug. 12. The mapping project from this campaign could help OU researchers develop a heat vulnerability index for Oklahoma City. And the city is looking for volunteers to help with the project.

Dr. Wenwen Cheng is the principal investigator of the Oklahoma City Heat Vulnerability Index and a professor of landscape architecture at OU. She told OU that residents of the JFK neighborhood east of downtown OKC mentioned concerns about air pollution and needs for trees and sidewalks in their neighborhood environment.

The data gathered will include social and economic demographics, health conditions, and urban climate and environmental factors. It could be used to help policy-makers make decisions about better urban design that alleviates the heat island effect in some parts of the city.


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