Fallin Disregards EPA Rules

Calfing Glacier - Global Warming? By Len “Doc” Radin

Gov. Mary Fallin’s so-called “executive order” last week that informs the federal government Oklahoma will not comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules is yet another example of how she and her fellow Republicans disregard the environment here.

Our planet is facing a major crisis because of global warming caused by manmade carbon emissions. Rising sea levels due to the melting of planet’s ice caps already threaten some coastal communities, but here in land-locked Oklahoma we don’t care, right?

At issue are new EPA rules that seek to curb the carbon emissions at coal-fired energy plants in Oklahoma and elsewhere. These rules, supported by the federal Clean Air Act, aim to cut carbon emissions from energy plants 30 percent by 2030. The rules are hardly draconian and would help the planet, and we do live on a “planet,” not just in Oklahoma.

Here’s part of Fallin’s Obama-bashing statement about the her actions:

President Obama and the EPA are fighting a politically charged war against utility consumers across the country. While the environmental benefits of these regulations will be minimal, the economic devastation of these overreaching and unrealistic regulations will be very real. The order I signed today makes it clear the state of Oklahoma has no intention of implementing new regulations that run directly contrary to the interests of our citizens and our state. We will continue to stand up for Oklahoma families and businesses by fighting this overreach and bad policy in court.

How is disregarding environmental devastation not standing up for Oklahoma families? Fallin’s statement seems backwards to me. The idea that utility rates will soar because of the new rules isn’t feasible because government heavily regulates energy plants, which is a good thing. If rates do skyrocket, it will be because regulators and lawmakers here let that happen, not because we have a cleaner planet.

Fallin’s order also asks Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to “take such action as is necessary to enforce the rights of the State of Oklahoma and its citizens from such federal actions as may impact the freedoms of its people.” In other words, sue the federal government again and again, which is Pruitt’s trademark.

Oklahoma’s ongoing war with the federal government during the Obama era has done nothing for this state in real, tangible terms. It has only cost taxpayers money because of senseless and theatrical lawsuits.

All this anti-federal government nonsense might make some people here feel good momentarily, but it’s dumb and makes the state look bad to the rest of the world. Let’s hope we can restore some sense of reality to our state government here in the future.

Bill Defends Religious Bigotry

Rainbow Architecture by Sue.Ann, on Flickr

The so-called “religious freedom” legislation law signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin may not mean much in the real world but it’s historically abhorrent.

The law essentially means nothing. It allows ministers to refuse to marry people if they don’t want to because of their religious beliefs. This is already the case.

The law, of course, is about same-sex marriage, which is now legal in Oklahoma because of a federal court ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court, as we all know, is getting ready to decide if same-marriage, now legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia, should be the law of the land. Let’s hope the court rules against discrimination and legalizes same-sex marriage everywhere in the nation. I think it will.

This was Fallin’s rather blank and generic statement about House Bill 1007:

This bill makes it clear that the government can never compel our religious leaders or houses of worship to act in violation of their faith where marriage is concerned. I am proud to join our Legislature in taking a strong stand in defense of religious liberty and the freedoms awarded to all American citizens by the U.S. Constitution.

No, there’s not a lot of gay-bashing in that statement, but it’s obvious the bill is a backlash to the growing cultural acceptance and tolerance of same-sex marriage. Oklahoma lawmakers and Fallin, as usual, are historically wrong on this social issue. It will make them look foolish and hateful in the future when same-sex marriages are performed in most, if not all, mainstream churches. That time is coming faster that many of us could even imagine 10 or so years ago.

There’s simply no rational legal argument against same-sex marriage as the arguments before the high court this week have shown. The only arguments against same-sex marriage are basically religious in nature and have nothing to do with licensing and regulation. There are plenty of ordained ministers who will marry same-sex couples here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

This petty bill signed by Fallin does nothing constructive. It’s a waste of time and taxpayer money. Same-sex marriage is here to stay. Discrimination is always wrong and hateful. Passing a law codifying discrimination may make bigots feel good momentarily, but history will not be kind to them. Surely, Fallin, now in her second term as governor, knows that on some level. Maybe not.

Could It Happen Here?

Nepal Earthquake April 25, 2015 by International Federal of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, on Flickr

(Here is a Time magazine story about organizations seeking donations for relief efforts in Nepal. Be sure to carefully check out any organization before donating money to it.)

The television and online images of the horrific damage caused by the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal killing more than 5,000 will probably cause an extra dose of anxiety here in Oklahoma.

As earthquakes rumble through central Oklahoma on a daily basis, scientists are predicting the manmade quakes here could be leading us to large one that could cause massive damage. Could it be as bad as the earthquake in Nepal? Yes. Who can say “no” for sure?

Here are some similarities to consider: Nepal and Oklahoma are not prepared for such an earthquake in terms of the how its buildings were constructed. Both places are in earthquake-prone areas. Oklahoma, just like Nepal, doesn’t have an adequate first-responder system trained specifically for earthquakes.

In Nepal’s case, these issues are geological, systemic and related to poverty. In Oklahoma’s case, it’s the fracking process, a matter of lack of experience with earthquakes and what is seemingly emerging as a willful effort to keep information about the earthquakes here from its citizens.

Studies show Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of earthquakes 3.0-magnitude or above because of oil and gas activities, specifically the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process. In that process, wastewater is injected underground by high pressure. It’s believed now by scientists that this injection well process has been triggering earthquakes along the state’s fault lines over the last several years during the fracking boom here.

Generally speaking, the oil and gas industry initially denied any role in the earthquakes. That has become somewhat more ambiguous and varying. But it’s highly unlikely any company related to the injection well process would simply take legal responsibility as quake after quake hits us here in central Oklahoma.

Some people no doubt will accuse me of fear mongering because of the Nepal comparison. Nepal, for example, is situated in a region historically prone to large earthquakes, but Oklahoma has hundreds of injection wells and has already experienced a 5.7-magnitude earthquake near Prague in 2011. The state has experienced some earthquakes in the 4.0- to 4.8-magnitude range since then.

As the shaking continues on a daily so does a steady stream of news about how state officials, in particular, have either tried to hide or have been slow in conveying information about the earthquakes to its citizens.

A post on EnergyWire Monday claimed that emails show the Oklahoma Geological Survey has known since 2007 that oil and gas activity is related to the earthquakes. Written by Mike Soraghan, the post points out:

Instead, the agency, commonly called by its initials, OGS, accepted thousands of dollars' worth of seismic equipment from the company that scientists suspected of causing the quakes, Tulsa-based New Dominion LLC. And for years, they told the public the quakes were natural.

This news comes after we learned that OGS seismologist Austin Holland was asked to attend a 2013 meeting with University of Oklahoma President David Boren and Harold Hamm, the head of the oil and gas corporation Continental Resources, to discuss the earthquake issue.

To be fair, the OGS just recently issued a statement that it was likely the earthquakes have been caused by oil and gas activities. The state has also created a web site that includes information that connects the earthquakes to injection wells. But we’ve known this information for a long time now.

Independent scientists, who have been conducting studies, and the U.S. Geological Survey have been more adamant over the last couple of years at least that injection wells have led to the surge of local earthquakes.

Although the OGS and the state government now seem to acknowledge that Oklahoma has a serious earthquake problem that can be related to oil and gas activity, the only major legal action taken so far has been to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has made some small tweaks on collecting information about injection wells, but a bill making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature would prohibit cities from banning fracking activities within their jurisdictions.

Nearly a year ago, the USGS, in conjunction with OGS, issued an earthquake warning for Oklahoma telling its citizens that it should prepare for large earthquakes 5.0-magnitude or above.

The only sensible action at this point seems to be shutting down and issuing moratoriums on new wastewater injection wells, but that’s unlikely to happen given the political clout of the oil and gas industry and its economic importance to the state.

Photographs from the Nepal earthquake have shown before and after shots of some of its historic shrines, which were reduced to practically nothing but debris and ashes in the recent earthquake.

How could any concerned, rational and literally rattled Oklahoman not make the comparison between those photographs and what could happen to their homes here?

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