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environment

Sixth grade science teacher Melissa Lau prepares a lesson on climate change using "tree cookies" for her students at Piedmont Intermediate on July 1, 2019.
Caroline Halter / StateImpact Oklahoma

Melissa Lau is preparing for the coming school year. She teaches 6th grade science in Piedmont, just northwest of Oklahoma City. Inside her classroom, she’s laid out over thirty cross sections from the trunks of red cedar trees. Each ring represents one year of growth. Lau calls them “tree cookies.” 

EV Charging Stations Increase In Oklahoma

Jul 10, 2019
Electrify America electric vehicle charging stations are shown in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter at 501 SW 19th St. in Moore.
Bryan M. Richter

More electric vehicle charging stations are coming to Oklahoma. In this episode of the Business Intelligence Report, Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how this comes at a time of increased interest in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure across the state.

Meteorological Electronics Technician Kirk Wilson eyes the top of a 30-foot tower as he prepares to replace a wind sensor at an Oklahoma Mesonet station near Shawnee, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists are getting better and better data on the earth's changing climate. Now there's a push to take advantage of the information stream to help us cope with the extremes we know are coming. One leader in this is Oklahoma.

A Preview Of The Big Issues StateImpact Is Watching In 2019

Jan 4, 2019
Teachers rally at the state capitol during the teacher walkout.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Energy companies use portable pumps, like this one alongside a road in Kingfisher County, to transport fresh and produced water to and from oil-field sites through temporary pipelines.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the energy industry, ruling against officials in Kingfisher County who blocked companies from using temporary lines to transport produced, treated or recycled water in one of the state’s hottest oil fields.

Last spring, Kingfisher County Commissioners stopped issuing permits for temporary pipes placed in easements alongside county roads to pump water to and from drilling and oil-field sites, citing liability concerns and environmental hazards posed by leaks.

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.

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