In The Know: Cleanup crews say Oklahoma River oil spill mostly contained

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that efforts to cleanup and contain an August 12th oil spill in the Oklahoma River are nearing completion.  It’s unclear how state officials will respond to new national guidelines stipulating that legally married same-sex couples should be treated the same as straight married couples for federal tax purposes.  

A retired educator and former Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman added his name to a growing list of candidates running for State Superintendent.  A bipartisan, national push is growing against mandatory minimum sentences; Oklahoma still has at least 122 mandatory minimums on the books and even relatively minor offenses can mean years-long sentences.  

An Oklahoman Editorial highlighted the gap between Oklahoma’s education aspirations and reality.  The Department of Environmental Quality is warning residents of Colcord not to drink the tap water after ‘blood worms’ were found in the water filtration system.  

A Grady County District Judge approved a citizens’ petition drive request from the local sheriff and five others for a grand jury investigation of two county commissioners and the district attorney.  A man accused of plotting to bomb dozens of northeast Oklahoma churches will use evidence of untreated mental illness in his defense.  

The Number of the Day is the number of mandatory minimum sentences on the books in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a student loan repayment toolkit on ‘Public Service Loan Forgiveness’ – available to eligible workers at nonprofits and federal, state, or local governments.

In The News

Crews contain oil spill in Oklahoma River
Cleanup crews corralled oil that spilled into the Oklahoma River before most of the slick, sticky fluid could find its way to the Boathouse District. An estimated 385 barrels, or 16,940 gallons, of oil and saltwater spilled into Mustang Creek, near SW 15 and Morgan Road, after lightning struck a tank battery Aug. 12. Heavy rain the next morning overwhelmed containment materials put in place by firefighters, said Paul Bronson, Oklahoma City’s assistant public works director. Maintenance crews saw oil in the Oklahoma River the next morning “and they said, ‘Oh, boy,’” Bronson said.

Read more from NewsOK

Federal tax decision celebrated by same-sex couples in Oklahoma
These are among the first guidelines released by the federal government since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act in June. The White House advised all executive departments to work with the U.S. Justice Department to revise its policies for compliance with the Supreme Court decision. It is unclear how the Oklahoma Tax Commission or lawmakers will respond.

Read more from Tulsa World

Longtime Okla. Democrat to run for superintendent
A longtime college professor and former Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman added his name Thursday to the growing list of candidates looking to unseat first-term Republican State Superintendent Janet Barresi. Retired educator Ivan Holmes, 76, joins at least three other Democrats and a Republican who have announced plans to seek the education post in 2014.

Oklahoma’s mandatory minimum punishments too often don’t fit the crime
Mandatory minimums have been shown to be ineffective at preventing crime. Meanwhile, they distort the criminal justice system by creating situations where punishments do not fit the crime, and they threaten the right of access to a fair trial when prosecutors use the threat of harsh sentences to pressure defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge, even if they are innocent.

Read more from OKPolicy Blog

Colcord’s watery pests are identified as blood worms
This is the second case of blood worms associated with drinking water. The other case of blood worms was found between 20 and 30 years ago in Drumright, she said. Hatfield said the origin of how the blood worms got in the water filtering system remains a mystery.The state agency is sending inspectors to Colcord this week for further testing, she said.

Read more from Tulsa World

Judge clears way for grand jury petition drive
A state judge Thursday approved the citizens petition authored by Sheriff Scott Walton and five others for a grand jury investigation of county commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm, and District Attorney Janice Steidley and three of her assistants. The order was issued by Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck, giving the green light for the petition sponsors to start collecting the 4,487 registered voter signatures needed to convene the grand jury.

Read more from The Claremore Daily Progress

Man charged in Okla. plot plans insanity defense
At the time the indictment was issued, Weiler had not taken prescribed medications for his conditions since 2010, Greubel wrote. At a hearing in April, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cyran indicated his office agreed with the judge’s decision finding Weiler temporarily incompetent to stand trial. Investigators say they searched Weiler’s motel room in October after two apartment maintenance men found a duffel bag in a trash bin behind the motel that contained bomb-making materials, such as bottles and a gas can. Authorities say they discovered instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails and hand-drawn sketches of the targeted churches.

Read more from Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“Oh, boy.”

Paul Bronson, Oklahoma City’s assistant public works director on maintenance crews seeing oil in the Oklahoma River the morning after lightning struck a tank battery spilling 385 barrels of oil and saltwater

Number of the Day


The number of mandatory minimum sentences on the books in Oklahoma – including altering or covering the serial number on a motor (1 year) and stealing a hog (3 years).

Source: OKPolicy Blog

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

CFPB Launches Toolkit to Help Teachers and Other Public Servants Tackle Student Debt
Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched a toolkit to empower school districts and other public service organizations to help their employees pay off student loan debt. The CFPB is asking these employers to make a pledge to inform their employees of their options. Up to a quarter of the U.S. workforce is in public service and may be eligible for existing student loan debt forgiveness programs, according to a CFPB report also released today. “Our young people should not be mired in debt because they stir themselves to the call of public service. They deserve to know all their options,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Our toolkit and pledge can be a win-win for employers, the public they serve, and their employees who are facing student debt loads that are imposing unprecedented burdens upon this generation.”

Read more from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.