In The Know: Federal appeals court overturns EPA emissions regulations affecting Oklahoma

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 a federal appeals court struck down Environmental Protection Agency rules regulating power plant air pollution that crosses state lines in a case that affected Oklahoma and 27 other states. A Pennsylvania agency says Chesapeake Energy filed a report on its drilling operations containing so many errors that a state database rejected it. Oklahoma’s international exports reached record levels during the first half of 2012, fueled by energy industry-related manufacturing.

A review of operations by the contractor responsible for ambulance service in Oklahoma City and Tulsa has found a rudimentary system of verifying patient addresses, risky storage of patient credit card information, a high rate of cases turned over to the agency’s law firm and inefficient practices throughout the organization. Oklahoma students kept up with the national average for ACT scores in English and reading, but they fell short in math and science. The Enid School Board unanimously passed a resolution stating the number of tests students are required to take is getting in the way of learning.

Responding to an OK Policy blog post, NewsOK argued that the increased share of state funding for transportation is appropriate. Urban Tulsa Weekly discussed the prospects for passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Rep. Randy McDaniel said he plans to push more changes to Oklahoma’s unemployment insurance program. A drug recycling program for unused medication at nursing homes has saved Tulsa-area patients more than $10 million since 2004.

Tulsa leaders said the threat of layoffs at American Airlines was not the reason for a proposal to fund $254 million in improvements to the city’s airport-industrial park. Senator Brian Crain came to the defense of two GOP county commissioners who were censured by local party leaders for approving that proposal. The sixth annual Indian Country Business Summit will be held August 26th-28th in Norman.

In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports that Mitt Romney’s promise to roll back $716 billion in Medicare cuts under the Affordable Care Act would actually add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket expenses for beneficiaries. The Number of the Day is how many businesses in Oklahoma have less than 20 employees.

In The News

Federal appeals court overturns EPA emissions regulations affecting Oklahoma

A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down Environmental Protection Agency rules regulating power plant air pollution that crosses state lines in a case that affected Oklahoma and 27 other states. Under the rules, Oklahoma utilities with coal plants were required to limit emissions of nitrogen oxides during summer months. The state fell under a section of the cross-state air pollution rules to help stop the formation of ozone, which can cause breathing difficulties. Several utilities, including Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and Western Farmers Electric Coop, fought the rules. They were joined by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The EPA said the rules would have environmental and health benefits. Its estimates said the rules could have prevented between 13,000 and 34,000 early deaths and up to 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma each year.

Read more from NewsOK.

Pennsylvania says Chesapeake Energy’s drilling data filled with errors

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says natural gas drilling company Chesapeake Energy last week filed an important Marcellus Shale production report containing so many errors a state database rejected it. DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said on Tuesday a previous statement by Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. that suggested state databases were the problem wasn’t entirely accurate and omitted important points. “DEP’s production database functioned exactly as designed by rejecting reports that contain obvious data entry errors,” Sunday said. For example, Chesapeake attempted to report production information on wells where the drilling start date wasn’t listed; attempted to report more producing days than the number of days in the reporting period; and attempted to report drilled wells as wells that were not drilled, Sunday said.

Read more from Businessweek.

Energy boom fuels record-high international exports from Oklahoma

Oklahoma exports reached record levels during the first half of 2012, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The outflow of more than $3.4 billion worth of goods is an increase of 12 percent, markedly higher than the national average of 7 percent, reports the Tulsa World’s Kyle Arnold. Thirty-four states set records for exports, according to Commerce officials. In Oklahoma, energy industry-related manufacturing fueled much of that growth. Sada Joshi of Joshi Technologies, a Tulsa-based company that operates international oil wells in places like India and Ecuador, tells the paper that U.S.-made equipment has a better reputation than competing products made in China.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Review finds EMSA needs to improve address verification, patient credit card security, and more

A city review of EMSA’s operations has found a rudimentary system of verifying patient addresses, risky storage of patient credit card information, a high rate of cases turned over to the agency’s law firm and inefficient practices throughout the organization. The review makes about 50 findings related to EMSA’s practices and accompanying recommendations for improvement. Overall, the review found “no systematic approach to continuous improvement” at EMSA. The review will be presented to EMSA’s board at its monthly meeting Wednesday in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The Emergency Medical Services Authority is a government agency that oversees a contractor to provide ambulance service to more than 1 million people in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and surrounding cities.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma students fall behind in math and science ACT scores

A report released Wednesday shows that Oklahoma high school students scored lower than their peers nationally on the ACT college entrance exam. A few bright spots show progress, but the report shows more work needs to be done, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said. Oklahoma fell behind the national average overall, according to the report released by ACT Inc. Students here averaged a 20.7 out of a possible 36, compared to a 21.1 average nationwide. Oklahoma students kept up with students nationwide in English and reading, but they fell short in math and science.

Read more from NewsOK.

Enid school board decries standardized testing

Enid Public Schools Board of Education members drew a line in the sand Monday night over the amount of standardized testing required in schools. The board unanimously approved a resolution stating the number of tests students are required to take gets in the way of child-centered teaching and limits meaningful learning. The resolution calls on the Legislature to re-examine Oklahoma’s system of public school accountability. Board member Ernie Currier, when he moved to approve the resolution, asked that copies of it be given directly to local legislators. “We’re spending way too much money on the kind of testing that’s given way too much weight,” said Willa Jo Fowler, board president.

Read more from the Enid News and Eagle.

NewsOK: Oklahoma Department of Transportation hardly receiving too much of budget pie

After spending two decades as a budgeting afterthought, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation in 2005 finally began getting the attention it deserved from the Legislature. Has it received too much love? The Oklahoma Policy Institute suggests the answer is yes. In a recent posting on its website, OK Policy notes that the two agencies that have escaped the budget knife in recent, tough fiscal years have been the state Medicaid program and ODOT. Transportation funding has tripled since fiscal year 2005, the think tank says, while state spending on public education has increased just 13 percent. … Yes, the amount of additional state funding directed to the repair and upkeep of roads and bridges in recent years has been significant. But it has needed to be significant because during the 20 years before things began to change, the Legislature wrote the same size check to ODOT every year — translating to a 45 percent reduction after inflation.

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: You’re doin’ fine, transportation from the OK Policy Blog

Tulsa-OKC passenger rail under discussion but in jeopardy

As gas prices spike yet again — blamed on rising oil futures and refinery problems yet again — Oklahoma dallies on passenger rail yet again. The latest bungling involves the legislatively created Eastern Flyer Task Force, charged with studying the feasibility of service between the state’s two urban centers, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The panel has until Dec. 31 to complete its work, but there appears little reason to believe it will encourage new passenger trains in a state where the highway contractors dominate any discussion of transportation spending. The fear isn’t a couple of daily trains between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The fear is the service would be successful — and would eat into the already meager budget for transportation needs in a state that routinely appears near the top of lists rating the nation’s worst bridges and roads.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Rep. Randy McDaniel plans more unemployment insurance changes

… Bills to modernize the Unemployment Insurance System by using electronic payment and notification methods have produced significant savings for employers and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. I authored legislation to mitigate unemployment benefits fraud. Abuse occurs when people continue getting unemployment benefits while also working at a new job. Cracking down on fraud saves the system and employers money. Unemployment taxes can remain steady for businesses because additional revenues aren’t required to replenish the trust fund. The legislation also fixed a significant problem regarding an employer’s ability to terminate workers who test positive for drug use while on the job. During the 2013 session, I plan to build on the past reforms. In addition to drug use violations, other forms of misconduct such as the willful disregard of regulations and chronic absenteeism will be evaluated. An important issue will be a new requirement that all legislation designed to expand unemployment benefits contain a statement reflecting the projected impact on the solvency of the trust fund and employer tax rates.

Read more from NewsOK.

Drug recycling program saves millions

Jerry Gustafson must travel a bit out of his way to pick up the potentially life-saving cargo, but it’s worth it. “I’ll fill up the whole minivan,” Gustafson said, describing trips to long-term care facilities east of Claremore and Owasso as well as in Tulsa. Every month, he picks up medications from nursing homes, including blister packages that only a few years ago would have been slowly and methodically emptied out, with their contents thrown away rather than recycled. Gustafson and other retired doctors now pick up the drugs and drop them off at the George Prothro, MD Pharmacy of Tulsa County, 2401 Charles Page Blvd., where needy patients with a prescription can get the medication for free. Last year alone, the recycled drugs program filled 20,573 prescriptions for people struggling financially. This year, the program celebrated a milestone: topping the $10 million mark in the value of all drugs recycled since the program began in 2004.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Tulsa leaders slowly bringing into focus plans to extend Vision 2025 sales tax hike

The region’s single largest private employer would seem to cast a long shadow. But Mayor Dewey Bartlett isn’t keen on referencing American Airlines when discussing the proposed Vision2 extension of a sales tax hike approved by voters in 2003. “This is an economic development package for the entirety of our county,” Bartlett said, calling the package “focused on the aerospace-aviation industry as well as any industry, any company that is interested in moving into this area.” … American Airlines employs roughly 7,000 workers in Tulsa and has said it plans to lay off more than 2,000 workers, though recent union negotiations will no doubt reshape the final tally. But the most Bartlett would allow was that the company’s struggles have brought more attention to the need to upgrade aging facilities. Bartlett noted that the sites in need of improvement are where roughly 13,000 go to work each day.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

GOP lawmaker slams Tulsa County Republicans censure vote

A Republican state senator came Tuesday to the defense of two GOP county commissioners who were censured Saturday by local party leaders. “The efforts of a few unelected people acting without giving notice and behind closed doors is irrelevant,” Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said in a prepared statement. “Only the people who elected these commissioners can censure them and this is at the ballot box.” On Saturday, the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee voted to oppose the $748.8 million Vision2 proposal to extend a 0.6 percent county sales tax through 2029. The money would be used for economic development efforts, including improvements to city-owned industrial facilities at Tulsa International Airport, and for public works improvements in Tulsa County and its cities. The Republican county committee, the governing body of the local Republican Party, also voted to censure GOP County Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo, who had voted to send the extension proposal to county voters Nov. 6.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Upcoming event: 6th Annual Indian Country Business Summit, Aug. 26-28

The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO), the Tribal Government Institute (TGI), and the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network (OBAN) will host the sixth annual Indian Country Business Summit on August 26th-28th, 2012 in Norman Oklahoma. Convening for the sixth year, the Indian Country Business Summit brings state and local, federal, and tribal representatives together with companies from all over Texas and Oklahoma. General and break-out sessions focus on helping businesses network, market, and learn about opportunities in Indian Country. Guest Speakers include Congressman Tom Cole and Office of Native American Affairs at the SBA Chris James.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

Oklahoma kids aren’t just going to compete with Oklahoma kids for jobs and careers. They have to be able to compete nationally and internationally. The gaps remain and we’ve got to close those gaps.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi, on a new report showing Oklahoma high school students scored lower than the national average on science and math ACT scores

Number of the Day


Number of businesses in Oklahoma with less than 20 employees, 86.1 percent of all employer firms in 2009

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Patients would pay more if Romney restores Medicare savings, analysts say

Mitt Romney’s promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama “robbed” from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled, and not just because his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, included the same savings in his House budgets. The 2010 health care law cut Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans, by that amount over the coming decade. But repealing the savings, policy analysts say, would hasten the insolvency of Medicare by eight years — to 2016, the final year of the next presidential term, from 2024. While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries.

Read more from The New York Times.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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