Logan Layden is a native of McAlester, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009 and spent three years as a state capitol reporter and local host of All Things Considered for NPR member station KGOU in Norman.
Some landowners frustrated by the expansion of mining in south-central Oklahoma — particularly in the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer — hope a slight change to the state’s mining law will make a major difference in the public’s ability to go up against large sand and limestone mining companies.
Limestone and sand miners are getting a lot of attention lately. The amount of groundwater they can displace from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer was recently capped, and the state House could authorize a new tax on the industry.
Save for a tiny corner of far southeast Oklahoma, the entire state is either abnormally dry, or already in drought.
Areas of severe, extreme, and exceptional drought, the worst categories, are still confined to the western part of the state, with far southwest Oklahoma suffering the most. But the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show moderate drought conditions moving east and into Oklahoma City.
This isn’t the first legislative session some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for a severance tax for mining limestone and sand, but it’s the first time the idea has gotten this far.
On Monday, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed HB1876, which would allow up to a five percent tax on the production of limestone, sand, and other aggregates. It now moves to the full House for consideration.
Western Oklahoma is on the forefront of U.S. wind energy development, and has been for more than a decade. But as wind farm projects creep east, they’re meeting more resistance from landowners and increased involvement from the state legislature.
When Oklahomans apply for a permit from most state agencies to, say, dam a river or build a wind farm, formal public hearings are held before the permit is issued, where evidence is presented, concerns are voiced, and legally binding decisions are made.