KGOU

StateImpact Oklahoma

J.D. Drennan, senior agronomist for 46 Grain Company, stands in front of the grain elevator at Farmers' Elevator Company in Ames, Oklahoma.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma rye harvest gets underway within the next few days. Oklahoma is the country’s number one producer of what is occasionally referred to as the ‘poverty grain.’ Rye doesn’t have the best reputation, but demand is on the rise.

A demonstrator holds up seven fingers to send a message to a House committee that lawmakers should remove discounts and incentives so all oil and gas wells are taxed at 7 percent.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries.

NPR Ratings Surge

May 22, 2017

This is the Manager’s Minute.

Trusted journalism makes a difference, and across the United States more news consumers are turning to NPR.

Nationally, for the seventeenth month in a row, public radio listening has gone up from the same month in the previous year.

Morning Edition is now the top nationally syndicated radio talk show, and All Things Considered is second.

NPR has the highest ratings in its 45 year history and is the nation’s most loved news service brand, according to new Harris Equitrends polling.

Deep Dive Journalism

May 18, 2017
Logan Layden conducting an interview in 2014.
StateImpact Oklahoma

This is the Manager’s Minute.

KGOU is proud to be a member of the group of public media stations that operate StateImpact Oklahoma.

StateImpact Reporters Joe Wertz and Logan Layden have been reporting on energy and environment issues for six years and have been gaining national recognition for their work.

More than 75 of StateImpact’s deep-dive, data-driven stories have been featured on NPR.

Eighteen different news organizations, in the U.S., Great Britain and Canada, have aired StateImpact Oklahoma’s reports.

A long line of cattle are herded into a semi-trailer at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A former accountant and compliance officer for the Oklahoma Beef Council faces federal bank fraud and false tax return charges after an probe into suspected embezzlement of more than $2.6 million.

Pete Brown of Kingfisher oil company Brown & Borelli and former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas speak out against legislation to expand horizontal drilling at a Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance media event.
Joe Wertz / State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil executives have argued for years over a new law that would let companies drill and frack longer horizontal wells in new areas.

Right now, companies with leases in non-shale rock formations can’t drill horizontal wells more than a mile long. This one-mile limit is frustrating many of the most active drillers in Oklahoma, who say companies, shareholders, mineral owners and the state’s tax coffers are missing out on millions in new development from booming oil fields. The potential is a promising political incentive, given the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

Sherry Laskey stands near land she bought in a north Tulsa neighborhood. Laskey is hoping to turn the empty lot into a profitable community garden that provides healthy food for the area.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Low-income areas of rural Oklahoma are blotched with food deserts, where fresh, healthy food options are scarce. It’s a problem in cities, too, but entrepreneurs, educators and legislators say newly signed legislation could help fill grocery gaps with community gardens.

School just let out at Walt Whitman Elementary in north Tulsa and a group of third and fifth graders is eager to brag about the garden they helped plant on a hillside behind the school.

A line forms outside the Crown Heights Christian Church in Oklahoma City shortly after 8 a.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016..
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

This is the Manager’s Minute.

During the 2016 election cycle, KGOU, KOSU and StateImpact Oklahoma came together in a collaborative reporting project called Oklahoma Engaged.

Through our partnership, we provided numerous online and broadcast resources to help voters understand state questions and the election process.

Now, we are pleased to announce KGOU, KOSU and StateImpact Oklahoma have been chosen to receive a regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for the Oklahoma Engaged collaboration.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The most practical alternative to earthquake-triggering oilfield disposal wells is for energy companies to reuse the wastewater instead of injecting it underground, leaders of a research group working on behalf of the state said Wednesday.

Avoiding Injection

Geary, Oklahoma, Family Dollar manager Jacquie Hogue running the register in her store.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are epidemic in Oklahoma, and lack of access to fresh, healthy food is a big reason why. Scarcity is most severe in regions known as food deserts, where going to the grocery store often means taking a road trip. But new legislation awaiting the governor’s signature could bring more healthy food to areas that need it.

Lights from a drilling rig near Watonga, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2017 legislative session is beyond the halfway point and the clock is ticking on lawmakers who have until the end of May to set the state’s budget and plug an $870 million funding hole. Legislators say every option is on the table, including one with growing public support: Increasing taxes on oil and gas.

First, it was state Democrats like minority leader Scott Inman, who have long argued Oklahoma’s taxes are too generous for oil and gas companies.

Clinton, Oklahoma, resident Cindy Box and her Horse, Rosie, at Foss State Park.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

In March, the legislature asked state agencies how they would deal with worst-case budget reductions of nearly 15 percent. A cut that deep at the Department of Tourism could cost Oklahoma half of its state parks.

Bob Kerr on his ranch near Carnegie, Okla., which is flanked by turbines from the Blue Canyon Wind Farm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

One major tax incentive for wind energy remains on the books in Oklahoma. And the Legislature is poised to end it — more than three years early. The politics of renewable energy have changed as state revenues have failed, but some wind producers say lawmakers are reneging on a deal that sends a bad message to any industry considering investing in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s wind industry has grown year after year. With 3,400 turbines spread across 41 wind farm projects, the state ranks No. 3 in the nation in the American Wind Energy Association’s report on wind power capacity.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order to roll back many Obama-era rules meant to combat climate change. Politico’s Alex Guillén reports many of the directives in the order are geared toward making it easier to produce coal used for power generation:

Rancher and water advocate Gary Greene owns land near Pennington Creek.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Pennington Creek in south-central Oklahoma is the only source of drinking water for the town of Tishomingo. Residents there are worried limestone mining operations threaten the creek. Now, the city council is taking on the companies doing the digging.

Guthrie Fire Chief Eric Harlow.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crews have worked for more than a week to contain a massive wildfire that has torched more than a thousand square miles and killed one person and thousands of head of livestock in northwestern parts of Oklahoma. State budget cuts mean Oklahoma increasingly depends on other states to fight its largest and most dangerous wildfires.

A week after the fire started, state forestry director George Geissler oversaw the state’s response at a makeshift operations center at the Woodward County Fairgrounds.

A field medic raises her fist as protestors stand near a fire blocking a road along the Dakota Access Pipeline Route near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
Oceti Sakowin Camp / CC BY-NC 2.0

Oklahoma legislators are advancing a bill that outlaws trespassing on sites containing “critical infrastructure.” Supporters say the measure will help prevent damage and disruption of energy markets, electric grids and water services, but environmental activists and civil rights groups say the bill’s real purpose is to block political protests of pipelines and similar projects.

‘A NUMBER ON MY ARM’

U.S. Drought Monitor

Frigid temperatures never fully took hold in Oklahoma this winter. February saw record high temperatures, and instead of ice and snow, wildfires were the main weather-related concern, and drought — though improved — has persisted across much of the state.

In a statement summarizing February’s weather highlights and looking ahead to March, State Climatologist Gary McManus says the first two months of 2017 broke the record for the warmest combined January and February in state history.

Atoka Lake in southeast Oklahoma is in the middle of the state's most drought affected area.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Drought is back in Oklahoma. More than half the state now falls in the extreme drought category, and normally water-rich southeast Oklahoma is bearing the brunt of a very dry fall and winter.

Tree stumps poke above Atoka Lake’s surface, and it’s easy to see where the water line used to reach. In early 2016, lake levels were high. But now, Atoka is in the bullseye of the worst of Oklahoma’s current drought. Atoka Emergency Manager Derrick Mixon says last week’s snowstorm didn’t help much.

A foreman at the Shirley Ranch helps unload a trailer of Red Angus cattle to winter in a pasture near Alva, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A federal investigation has been launched into the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million by an employee of an obscure state board that promotes the beef industry, money created by a mandatory government program funded by farmers and ranchers.

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