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The Green State of Oklahoma – 2015


2015 is a new year that brings with it continued challenges for Oklahoma’s environmental issues. Let’s see how Oklahoma fared throughout 2014 on green issues facing the state*.

Waste & Recycling
According to the 2014 American Litter Scorecard, Oklahoma was ranked 40 out of 50, or one of worst and dirtiest states.  The scorecard is compiled once every three years. This is a slight improvement from the 2011 scorecard, which had Oklahoma ranked at #42.

The American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in the US according to three different criteria: by the number of high ozone days, by yearly pollution, and by short term (24 hour) pollution. Several cities in Oklahoma made the pollution list.  The Tulsa, Muskogee, and Bartlesville area came in at 14 out of 25 cities for number of high ozone days. Oklahoma City and Shawnee came in at 19 out of 25. The overall ozone grade for both regions was F. On the bright side, Oklahoma/Shawnee and Tulsa/Muskogee/Bartlesville areas were both given a grade A  for metropolitan areas with short term pollution.

Oklahoma also currently ranks 17 out of 50 states for carbon dioxide emissions, and 24 out of 50 for number of annual miles driven (2012)**.

According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program), 18% of Oklahoma’s population has been exposed to contaminated water systems, as defined by the EPA.

Meanwhile, the drought situation in Oklahoma isn’t improving. 2015 will bring the state into its fifth year of drought across most of the state.

In 2013, Oklahoma ranked 5th in crude oil production, and is one of the highest producing natural gas states**. The state also ranks 4th for highest wind electricity generated.

Green Schools
Of the 1,803 public schools in Oklahoma, only 22 are registered active Oklahoma Green Schools.

Wildlife Conservation
In 2014, the Humane Society ranked Oklahoma 30th on animal protection laws.

24 animals and 2 plants are listed as either endangered or threatened in Oklahoma by the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Although Oklahoma is doing some great green things – like being 4th in wind energy, improving its litter ranking, and receiving an A in two cities for short term pollution – Oklahoma still has much green work to do in 2015.


*When available, comparisons were made with previous years and other states.
**This is the most recent data available.
Photo Credit- Okiefromokla

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles State After Injection Well Shutdown

Oklahoma Earthquakes

Earthquakes in Oklahoma as of 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

A 4.3 magnitude earthquake was reported near Cherokee at 9:08 a.m. on Thursday. This comes after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directed SandRidge Energy to shut down an injection well in Alfalfa County on Tuesday.

The well was shut down due to a magnitude 4.1 earthquake recorded in the area on Friday. It’s the second active wastewater injection well to be shut down since 2003, when a new monitoring system was put into place.

Oklahoma’s earthquakes are continuing to increase. In 2011 Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake in state history, magnitude 5.7. That year there were 63 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.

2012 was a bit quieter with 34 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater. However, in 2013 earthquakes increased again with 106 of magnitude 3 or greater. And in 2014 the number jumped to 567 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.

While studies continue to link the increase in earthquakes to injection wells, the state has been slow to address the issue. The oil and gas industry accounts for a third of the state’s economy and one in five jobs, making state officials slow to enact more regulations on the industry.

In September of last year Gov. Fallin created a seismic activity council to study the issue. However, some have criticized the council because they believe the oil and natural gas industry is too heavily represented.

“I applaud the governor for proposing the council, but its membership needs to be expanded to include someone other than just people beholden to the oil and gas industry,” . Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant said. –read more

How Oklahoma handles the earthquake increase and the oil and natural gas industry could also come from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state’s highest court is set to decide if two oil companies can be held liable for injuries a woman received from the 2011 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS

Food Deserts in Oklahoma

food deserts

Many Oklahomans are currently living in food deserts, especially in southeastern Oklahoma. And Oklahoma City is ranked as the second worst city for food access.

“Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.”- USDA, Food Deserts

It’s estimated that 23.5 million people in the US live in food deserts. More than half of those people are low-income. These people are often forced to shop at convenience store where food costs are high and largely pre-packaged food with low nutritional value and high calorie counts.

The lack of a grocery store leaves communities with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related diseases. This is the case in Southeastern Oklahoma, where we see the largest concentration of food deserts in the state. Counties like Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Le Flore, McCurtain, and Pushmataha have a serious lack of grocery stores and are also one of the poorest regions in Oklahoma.

“The trend in Oklahoma has been for a few large retail chain stores to open in areas where consumers’ incomes are the highest, leaving the most affordable food to Oklahoma’s most affluent areas, according to the report.”- NewsOK, Parts of Oklahoma get ‘food desert’ label

There are some projects popping up around the state to help combat the food desert problem. Valley Brook, one of the many food deserts in the state, has a community garden helping to bring fresh food to the area. And in Tulsa, R&G Family Grocers has a mobile grocery store helping to bring healthy food to the people in Tulsa’s food deserts. And earlier this week, the Oklahoma Food Security Submit was held in hopes of addressing many of these issues.

Ending food deserts must be a priority in Oklahoma.

Do you live in a food desert? Check out NPR’s food desert finder. What do you think we can do to help end food deserts in Oklahoma? Share in the comments below.


Original Photo Credits- Small Town OK

Twelve States Suing the EPA Over Federal Clean Power Plan

power plant

Photo Credit: Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

Twelve states, including Oklahoma, have joined together to sue the EPA over President Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions 30 percent nationally by 2030. The plan largely focuses on reducing our reliance on coal-fired power plants.

Power plants account for nearly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Currently, there are limits on how much arsenic, mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particle pollution power plants can emit. However, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution.

“By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

· Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year; 
· Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
· Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and 
· Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.”    – read more 

Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt told The Oklahoman, “I believe the EPA does not possess authority under Section 111(d) to take the action they took (in June).”

However, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi told The Oklahoman“history has shown that EPA writes solid rules and they stand up in court — the courts have reaffirmed our science and reasoning time and time again.”

This is not the first time Pruitt has gone up against the EPA. He unsuccessfully tried to stop the regional haze rule.

Drought Continues Despite Recent Rain


Click for full image

Recent rain has almost doubled the amount of the state not experiencing drought. Central Oklahoma received 3-6+ inches of rain last week. However, nearly 90 percent of the state is still abnormally dry or experiencing drought conditions. Just under 6 percent of the state is currently in the worst stage of drought, exceptional.

It’s pretty unusual for Oklahoma to receive relief like this during the summer month so any improvement in drought conditions is welcome! And more rain is on the way, as well as cooler temperature.

The long term drought forecast looks bleak for states like California and Texas, with the outlook showing the drought intensifying. The outlook for Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona looks more promising.

Water conservation is still key around the state as many of our lakes are still very low. And water concerns continue around the state and the country.

Check out some of our simple water conservation tips to help with the on-going water crisis. And share your tips in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Oklahoma Sees it’s Worst Wheat Crop Since 1957

Photo Credit: Bluemoose

Oklahoma Wheat Commission director Mike Schulte says the current projection is for about 51 million bushels of wheat in the state, half as much as last year.

This would make it the worst crop since 1957, which saw 43 million bushels. The ongoing drought, late freeze and untimely late spring rains are to blame for the poor wheat crop.

“Cassidy Grain elevator co-owner Mike Cassidy in Frederick says the harvest that began in early June virtually ended before it started. Cassidy says most of the wheat that was cut this year was set aside for use as seed next year.” – read more at News 9

This is not the only bad news for Oklahoma’s wheat producers. Global wheat production saw it’s second largest production on record. This is driving down US exports and global prices.

Farmers remain hopeful for next year. However, in the meantime, we can expect beef and grain costs to go up.

Photo Credit: Bluemoose

Oklahoma is Starting the Week off Shaking

After a shaky weekend, the work week is off to a shaky start as well. Early this morning a 3.9 magnitude earthquake shook Medford.

During the weekend Oklahoma was rocked by seven earthquakes. The largest was a 4.3 magnitude quake in Langston on Saturday. There were no reports of damage or major injury.


Earthquake map of the last seven days.

The other quakes on Saturday were much smaller. And on Sunday there were three more quakes, with one registering 4.0.

These earthquakes are part of a trend in the state. As of last month, Oklahoma had surpassed California for the number of earthquakes this year.

Oklahoma has always had earthquakes but not in nearly this number. From 1978 to 2008, Oklahoma had an average of two quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. As of June 19, 2014, there were 207 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater in the state, says USGS.

The increase began in 2009 with 20 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater, and the number has been increasing every year since, other than 2013.

Several studies have pointed to disposal wells used in oil and gas drill as the possible cause of the earthquake increase. While linking each earthquake to the wells is very difficult the overall trend does seem to have a link.

One of the studies showing this link was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, led by USGS geophysicist, William Ellsworth.

“Something is going on out of the ordinary,” Ellsworth said. “The largest preponderance of evidence,” he said, points to the Oklahoma and Colorado quakes and the rise in the number of midcontinent earthquakes being caused by injection of wastewater from oil and gas drilling. –read more

There is also a growing concern that Oklahoma could experience a large, damaging earthquake. Back in the spring, the  U.S. Geological Survey issued an Earthquake Warning for the state. Oklahomans are being urged to prepare for earthquakes and to be sure they have earthquake insurance.

Have you been feeling the earthquakes? Are you worried about a large quake hitting the state? Share in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS

One Year Anniversary of the 2013 Tornado Outbreak

Photo Credit: Ks0stm

Photo Credit: Ks0stm

A year ago today was the start of the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma, which claimed 26 lives in the state. While we were warned that a significant outbreak was likely, no one could have predicted what would happen.

On Sunday, May 19th conditions were right for supercells and they quickly developed along the dry line near the Interstate 44 corridor. The storms produce many tornadoes, impacting Edmond, Luther, Arcadia, Carney, Norman, Lake Thunderbird, Shawnee, and Prague. The most intense storm was an EF-4 tornado which hit the town of Shawnee. Two people lost their lives in that storm.

We knew May 20th would be another very high risk day for tornado activity but again we had no idea the tragedy that would hit Oklahoma that day. We watched in horror as a violent EF-5 tornado was headed straight to Moore, Oklahoma. Following a similar path to the May 3rd, 1999 tornado that devastated the OKC metro. And this time the storm was hitting while children were in school and in the path of the tornado.

The tornado damaged or destroyed more than 13,000 homes and killed 24 people, including seven children that were taking shelter inside Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed by the tornado. Damage from the storm can still be seen in Moore as people are still cleaning up and rebuilding.

So far this year has been fairly quite as far as tornadoes go, with no significant outbreaks. However, some scientists fear climate change could make violent tornadoes, like those Oklahoma saw last year, more common. As we remember those that we lost last year, we must work to be more prepared for storms in the future.


Earthquake ‘Warning’ Issued for Oklahoma

(U.S. Geological Survey)

(U.S. Geological Survey)

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has issued an earthquake warning for Oklahoma. This is the first earthquake warning east of the Rockies.

Earthquake warnings are more commonly issued for Western states following large earthquakes, to warn of damaging aftershocks. However, the USGS hopes issuing this warning in Oklahoma will help residents be more prepared for the possibility for a large earthquake.

“The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased remarkably since October 2013 – by about 50 percent – significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma.”- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS)

The U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Geological Survey found that 145 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater occurred in Oklahoma from January 2014 through May 2nd, 2014. This breaks the previous annual record of 109 earthquakes in 2013. The long-term average earthquake rate, from 1978 to 2008, was two magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes per year.

This has lead to the USGS and OGS warning those living in central and north-central Oklahoma that the likelihood of damaging earthquakes has increased.

The recent analysis from the USGS and OGS suggests that wastewater injection is likely a contributing factor in the increase of earthquakes.  The phenomenon has been documented for nearly half a century, with new cases recently identified in Arkansas, Ohio, Texas, and Colorado. A recent publication by the USGS suggests the magnitude 5.0 foreshock to the 2011 Prague, Okla., earthquake was caused by fluid injection, that earthquake may have triggered the historical magnitude 5.6 earthquake.

The Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak has recommended that Oklahomans make sure they have earthquake insurance. It’s estimated only one percent of Oklahomans currently are insured for earthquakes. You can also find tips for how to be prepared for an earthquake on the Oklahoma Government website.

We’d like to hear what you are doing to prepare for earthquakes and whether or not you have earthquake insurance. Comment below or on our Facebook page

Oklahoma’s Wind Industry in Jeopardy

Wind Turbine Oklahoma is currently sixth in the country in wind production. However, Oklahoma’s wind industry is now at risk due to two state Senate bills.

The first bill, SB 1440, would place a moratorium on new wind development east of Interstate 35. The second bill, SB 1559, places restrictions on wind and would stop development and divert new projects to Kansas and Texas.

Wind power has been very important to many Oklahomans. Wind provides jobs and has helped bring businesses like Google to the state. Wind is also helping Oklahoma become energy independent. And in the past wind energy has received overwhelming bipartisan support.

Oklahoma currently has several incentives for wind developers, including a five-year local property tax exemption. Renewable energy developers can also receive a tax credit of 0.25 cents to 0.75 cents per kilowatt hour of energy produced.

“It’s unfortunate that we are seeing bills this legislative session aimed at either restricting wind farm developments or halting future projects altogether,” Arnella Karges, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said. “Why have policies which encourage wind production in our state and then not allow that development? The State Chamber supports an ‘all of the above’ energy portfolio for Oklahoma, and wind power is part of that.”- read more

Why the sudden change of attitude towards wind energy? The lobbyist working to help advance the bills may be the answer.

“These bills have been advanced by a wealthy individual related to the Walton family (of Walmart fame) who hired lobbyists and made campaign contributions so he wouldn’t have to look at wind turbines.”- Oklahoma Sierra Club

Oklahomans wanting to save the wind industry in Oklahoma should contact their state Senators today and let them know these bills are not best for Oklahoma. And ask them to vote no on SB 1440 and SB 1559.

Photo Credit