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.
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.
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.
Tyler Lane pulls up a wooden marker covered with oily sludge in the land behind his Bristow home. Lane uses stakes and rope to keep his two children out of the oiliest, most dangerous parts of his property, which sits atop the abandoned Wilcox Refinery, Oklahoma’s newest Superfund site.
You can’t see it from street, or when you look out the window of Glen Jones’ parents’ house, but the Wilcox Refinery is still here. Parts of it, anyway.
In December 2013, the abandoned refinery complex near Bristow became Oklahoma’s newest federal Superfund site. The Wilcox Refinery closed more than 50 years ago, but lead and other toxic chemicals remain, and residents are uneasy about the long cleanup ahead.
When Gov. Mary Fallin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in January agreed a north Texas water district could take water out of the Red River using a pump station in Oklahoma, they avoided what could’ve been a long legal battle over the exact location of the state’s southern boundary.
Drought and agriculture don’t mix very well. So after three years of intense drought, you might expect rural western Oklahoma communities — where fortunes have traditionally hinged on the condition of wheat crops — to be dying on the vine.
But no. As The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports, many of these towns are adapting to a new economy with a little help from the oil and gas industry.
Last week, StateImpact reported on what the passage of State Question 640 in 1992 did to tax policy in Oklahoma.
“You need to have a supermajority in the House and the Senate and the governor has to sign it,” Alexander Holmes, a Regent’s Professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma, said. “I’m still betting that if you reduce the taxes, you can never make them go up again.”
The federal government will use a grassland laboratory near El Reno to research the regional effects of climate change for U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.
The Grazinglands Research Laboratory was picked to be one of the country’s seven “climate hubs,” where federal and state agencies, university scientists and other researchers will generate data to help landowners “adapt and adjust their resource management,” federal officials said in a statement.