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PM NewsBrief: March 14, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, March 14, 2023.

Oklahoma Rejects EPA Plan To Transfer Contaminated Soil From East Palestine, Ohio

Governor Kevin Stitt tweeted that he stopped a shipment of contaminated soil from East Palestine, Ohio, to a waste disposal facility in northwestern Oklahoma.

According to an email obtained by The Frontier, the Environmental Protection Agency notified the governor’s office on Saturday that it planned to send 3,640 tons of waste to the Clean Harbors Lone Mountain facility near Waynoka.

Debra Shore, the EPA regional administrator for Ohio, said East Palestine’s contaminated soil and water need to be transferred to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

"We know it’s far better to have it safely stored in a properly constructed and monitored disposal facility than to have it remain here any longer than necessary when there are licensed, regulated disposal facilities available that routinely dispose of similar wastes," Shore said.

But Stitt said there are too many questions about the safety of shipping and storing the toxic materials. According to EPA data, this shipment contained more than twice as much waste as the Lone Mountain facility normally deals with in a year.

Stitt says he worked with Oklahoma’s federal delegation to stop the shipment.

Volkswagen Chooses Canada For Battery Manufacturing Plant

After being on a shortlist for car maker Volkswagen’s new battery manufacturing plant, Oklahoma lost out on the project to Canada.

Modifications to incentives for Volkswagen to build a new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Oklahoma, including nearly $700 million in state rebates if certain spending and employment benchmarks were met, were not enough to convince the company to open the plant at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor.

If Volkswagen had accepted Oklahoma’s offer, the company would have needed to start with 500 full-time employees and reach 3,500 by its fourth and fifth year.

Instead, the plant will be opened in St. Thomas, Ontario.

This follows a similar loss for the state last year, when Panasonic chose to open an EV battery manufacturing plant in neighboring Kansas, and in 2020, when Tesla chose Austin over Tulsa for an assembly plant.

OK Ethics Commission Claims Lack Of Funding To Do Job

Oklahoma’s Ethics Commission says it can’t investigate potential ethics breaches in municipal or other political subdivision races because of a lack of funds.

The issue came to light following a March meeting, when commissioners moved to dismiss a complaint of a potential election ethics breach because there was no money to pay for the investigation.

The alleged breach was in a local race. The ethics commission has a dedicated state fund created by lawmakers in 2014. However, the fund has never had a dollar in it.

The Commission is only required to enforce campaign finance laws when the local government campaign finance fund possesses over $100,000. Given this lack of finances, it’s unclear what action the ethics commission could take in any potential violations in local races.

Senate Clears Bill To Limit Stitt’s Power Over Tourism Dept.

A bill to limit the governor’s power over the Oklahoma Department of Tourism passed out of the Senate.

Monday’s vote comes in the wake of several investigations into the agency’s management, including a financial scandal regarding a $17 million contract with Swadley’s Bar-B-Q to open several restaurants in state parks.

Until about five years ago, most state agencies — including tourism — operated under governing boards and commissions, but the Legislature shifted much of that power to the governor’s office.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson authored Senate Bill 4, which claws some oversight power back. It reinstates the commission’s power over the agency, and requires the governor to show cause before removing any of its members.

The measure is now headed to the House.

Osage Nation Building ‘Brand Awareness’ Ahead Of Movie Release

The main message of the Osage Nation’s new branding campaign is “Wahzhazhe Always.” Wahzhazhe is the traditional name for the Osage - it was only until after colonization that the term Osage came to be.

The tribal nation anticipates after the release of Killers of the Flower Moon, later this year, there will be a flood of interest in the Osage people.

"Our culture here with the tribe is getting stronger,” says Vann Bighorse, director of language culture and education in a video detailing the campaign. “That's what our people prayed for and that's what we've done."

The campaign will include billboards, social media, public service announcement placements throughout the year. Additional efforts to highlight the tribal nation’s language preservation efforts, economy and culture are also planned.


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