In The Know: Oklahoma rarely punishes companies for oil wastewater spills

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma rarely punishes companies for oil wastewater spills: A new year-long investigation from the Associated Press shows several states, including Oklahoma, rely on the oil and gas industry to self-report such spills and rarely fine or punish companies. The “no-penalty policy” is standard practice in most oil and gas states. Environmental activists and groups representing landowners contend the lack of punishment helps explain why the industry hasn’t done more to prevent spills [Associated Press].

Oklahoma prisons boss looks to reduce solitary confinement: Oklahoma prison inmates who spend 23 hours a day locked in their cell soon could see more recreational time under a new pilot program at the state’s maximum-security prison. More than 1,180 Oklahoma prison inmates currently are confined to their cell with just five hours a week of solitary recreation time [Tulsa World].

Transportation panel approves eight-year construction plan for Oklahoma road projects: The plan calls for spending nearly $6.5 billion in state and federal funds on 1,812 projects, including major improvements to high-volume highways and interstates, and replacing or rehabilitating 913 bridges and adding 776 miles of shoulders and other safety improvements to two-lane highways [NewsOK].

Right to Work 14 years later: Across the nation, state legislatures and electorates are still debating one of the biggest issues in organized labor: Should private-sector unions be allowed to impose fees that, in effect, require workers to pay into unions whether they want to or not? Fourteen years ago, Oklahoma television sets were awash in advertisements for and against that topic, which was presented to voters on a Sept. 25, 2001, special election in the form of State Question 695 [NonDoc].

Creek Nation to ask Carter Center to monitor upcoming elections: At an emergency meeting Tuesday night, the tribe’s legislative branch voted 9-6 to invite the Atlanta-based Carter Center’s Democracy Program to observe its primary election on Sept. 19 and general election on Nov. 7. The move comes in response to voter concerns about the absentee balloting process used by the tribe’s Election Board [Tulsa World].

Cyndi Munson wins House District 85 for Democrats: Her victory raises the Democratic caucus membership to 30. Munson defeated Republican nominee Chip Carter, an Oklahoma City businessman. In victory, she assumes the seat previously held by David Dank. Munson garnered 2,640 votes (53.79 percent) to 2,268 (46.21 percent) for Carter [CapitolBeatOK].

With a shorfall looming, now is the time to avoid train wreck: It’s the potential problem no one wants to talk about. With low oil prices and an income tax cut set for Jan. 1, our state’s bleak budget outlook could get even worse. The anticipated shortfall in the state’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is exacerbated by more than $500 million in one-time revenue sources the Legislature used to plug a roughly $611 million hole in the current fiscal year’s budget [Enid News & Eagle].

Parents must be vocal and protect public education: Recently, an editorial by the Daily Oklahoman called on educators and parents to “lower the volume,” calling the public outcry and rallies in support of public education “disconcerting.” Are we truly to approach the state Capitol, with bowl in hand like Oliver Twist, meekly pleading “Please sir, I want some more…” and hope for the best? [Brenda Heigl / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I want to do whatever I can to prevent irresponsible decisions like tax cuts when we already have a deficit and a teacher shortage. That’s dangerous.”

-Cyndi Munson, who yesterday won a special election to replace Rep. David Dank in the Oklahoma House (Source)

Number of the Day


Median value of owner-occupied homes in Oklahoma, about two-thirds the U.S. median ($173,900).

Source: Census Reporter

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Selling plasma to survive: how over a million American families live on $2 per day: In early 2011, 1.5 million American households, including 3 million children, were living on less than $2 in cash per person per day. Half of those households didn’t have access to in-kind benefits like food stamps, either. Worst of all, the numbers had increased dramatically since 1996 [Vox].

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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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