Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

Read more
Study Says No Major Environmental Concerns
4:13 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Fallin Calls For Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline

Oil Pipeline Pumping Station
Credit shannonpatrick17 / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin is calling on the Obama Administration to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Fallin renewed calls to approve the project Friday after the State Department released a study raising no major environmental objections to the project. The crude oil pipeline would run through Cushing and connect oil reserves in Canada to markets throughout the United States, ending on the Gulf Coast.

Read more
The Two-Way
2:33 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

U.S. Issues Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Review

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., last January.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 4:11 pm

The State Department says that production of Canadian tar-sand crude, which has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than other types of oil, is unlikely to be increased if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead — and therefore would do little to contribute to climate change.

Read more
World Views
1:28 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Criticism And Contradiction Cloud State Of The Union’s Foreign Policy

President Obama delivers his 2014 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
Credit The White House / YouTube

President Obama’s international outlook remains heavily oriented toward decreasing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. In his State of the Union address, the president promised to declare an end to the 12-year war in Afghanistan.

Joshua Landis, the author of Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says President Obama’s address “claimed big successes” in a September Syria chemical weapons deal and a November interim agreement with Iran halting uranium enrichment programs in exchange for lifted sanctions.

Read more
Public Schools
10:45 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Oklahoma Per-Pupil School Spending Remains Below 2009 Levels

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi
Credit Oklahoma Department of Education

 Oklahoma's Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is outlining the agency's request for nearly $175 million in new funding for public schools in next year's budget.

Barresi testified Thursday before a House budget subcommittee responsible for overseeing funding for K-12 schools in Oklahoma.

The Department of Education received about $2.4 billion appropriation for the current fiscal year. The agency is requesting $2.57 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Read more
U.S. Senate
9:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Inhofe Fundraising: $1.6 Million Campaign Cash On Hand

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Credit Gage Skidmore / Flickr

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe says he raised more than $400,000 for his re-election campaign during the last three months of 2013.

Inhofe's campaign released his financial report on Thursday that shows the Tulsa Republican had nearly $1.6 million in cash on hand at the end of the period, which covers campaign contributions and expenditures from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

The federal campaign finance reports are not due until midnight Friday, but Inhofe's campaign released the report early.

Inhofe reported total receipts of more than $3.5 million for the election cycle to date.

Read more
State Capitol
7:57 am
Fri January 31, 2014

After Friday, New Oklahoma Workers' Compensation System Begins

Credit James Martin / Flickr

Oklahoma workers who are injured on the job soon will have their legal claims handled through a new administrative system instead of the current court-based system.

The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission will begin handling claims for any employee injured on the job after Friday. Workers with injury dates before Feb. 1 will be handled in the court system that is being renamed the Court of Existing Claims.

Read more
7:53 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Keystone Report Said Likely To Disappoint Foes On Climate

Lead in text: 
Bloomberg News reports the State Department's document on the pipeline will "likely disappoint" opponents of the Keystone XL. Several people familiar with the report have told Bloomberg News the study will say that the pipeline will have only a minimal affect on carbon emissions. President Obama has said he would take the report's conclusion on the Keystone XL's impact on climate change while deciding whether to allow construction. Once the State Department is released, it kicks off another review for the President focused on whether the pipeline is in the U-S national interest.
The U.S. State Department is preparing a report that will probably disappoint environmentalists and opponents of the Keystone pipeline, according to people who have been briefed on the draft of the document.
The Two-Way
7:00 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Brain Surgeon Walks 6 Miles Through Storm To Save Patient

Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw, who made a long, cold trek to save his patient in Birmingham, Ala.
Frank Couch AL.com/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 7:46 am

As cities in the southern U.S. continue to recover from the ice and snow storm that brought life to a standstill in many places this week, stories are emerging about the incredible things some people did to help out others.

Let's start Friday with one of those tales.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:03 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Rep. Waxman Leaves Behind A Legacy Of Health Laws

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California stands in his Capitol Hill office beside a wall displaying his legislative accomplishments. Waxman, 74, said Thursday that he would retire after 40 years in the House of Representatives.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 10:43 am

California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the last remaining members of the huge post-Watergate class of 1974, is calling it quits at the end of this term.

Most people who live outside his Los Angeles district and off Capitol Hill have likely never heard of Waxman. He was never a fixture on the Sunday talk shows, or in Washington's social scene.

Read more
Oklahoma Watch
7:08 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Feds Investigating Tulsa's Avalon Halfway House

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org

Federal investigators are looking into allegations against a Tulsa halfway house that resulted in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pulling its inmates from the facility, Oklahoma Watch has learned.

Edward Evans, acting director of the Corrections Department, told legislators at a House public-safety subcommittee meeting Tuesday that the federal government was investigating issues at the Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa.

Read more

Pages