Infrared Videos Show Emissions From State Oil And Gas Sites

An environmental group has released a series of new infrared videos that show air pollution emissions from some fossil fuel extraction operations in the state.

It’s more evidence of the overall dirty nature of drilling and onsite storage of oil and gas, especially since the arrival of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom here, but the larger concern has to be the health of those people who live near drilling and storage sites.

Earthworks, the environmental group, partnered with Bold Oklahoma and Stop Fracking Payne County in the videos release and accompanying statement. The videos, however, speak for themselves. I urge you to watch them. People who live near these oil and gas operations are undoubtedly breathing these chemical emissions directly into their bodies. It can’t be healthy.

In the statement, Kel Pickens, who co-founded Stop Fracking Payne County, noted:

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OKC Black Lives Matter Rally Draws Large Crowd

Participants in the Black Lives Matter event in Oklahoma June 10, 2016

The Black Lives Matter rally in Oklahoma early Sunday evening was a lively and peaceful event that should remind everyone that it was desperately important because unfortunately racism still remains systemic here and elsewhere around the country.

The crowd was estimated at more than 2,000 people by the Oklahoma City Police Department, according to one media report, but I thought there were probably more people than that when you count those, like myself, who marched across the bridge on Walnut Avenue into Bricktown, along with those who were waiting near the pavilion across the street from the ballpark. Initially, one media report noted the police said only 500 people showed up. That’s sometimes how authority marginalizes protest by underestimating crowds they don’t necessarily like, but then the police changed the estimate for whatever reason. Was it an honest mistake or did helicopter video force the issue?

Black Lives Matter protests have been held across the country last week after Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile was killed by police in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Both were black men.These shootings were followed by the sniper attack on police in Dallas. Five police officers lost their lives there in what was supposed to be a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, but one rogue and mentally ill person changed that equation. It was another bloody week in America.

But the deaths of Sterling and Castile and the shooting of police officers in Dallas were not the beginning the problem. The beginning of the problem is, as it has always been, racism. It doesn’t help that our gun laws are terribly lax and unregulated because of the country’s weapons industry and the National Rifle Association, but racism is the festering sore that has yet to heal.

As a white man and college professor, I can understand my privilege in a conscious and intellectual sense, and I will never feel the fear or anxiety deep in the crevices of my bones like an African American, who, say, gets pulled over in a car by the police. What I do know above all else, though, is that white people need to stand up and speak out against racism and, very specifically, against the rampant police brutality faced by African Americans and other minority people on a daily basis in this country.

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Oklahoma Revenue Problem Becomes A Structural Issue

Don’t expect taxes on fossil fuel production to improve Oklahoma’s financial situation much anytime soon, according to some predictions.

Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller laid out grim news this week about declining tax collections again for the month of June, but he did note the gross production taxes on fossil fuels “. . . have risen slightly for two months in a row . . .” This led at least one local media outlet to herald that news as an “industry turnaround.”

But not so fast. Some analysts are predicting oil could go under $40 a barrel after the summer driving season, and peak oil demand—the concept the world has reached the summit of its fossil fuel use—means Oklahoma faces a major financial structural crisis that could conceivably linger for years. I remain unsure why more people aren’t discussing this.

Miller’s numbers continue to stagger. June collections were down 7.4 percent or $74 million compared to last year. Miller noted that this is the 14th consecutive month that tax revenues declined from the previous year. Oklahoma, Miller pointed out, is officially in a recession. Overall, 2016 receipts declined by 7.2 percent or $860 million, according to Miller. This is in a state with an approximate $7 billion annual budget.

The declining revenues have led to major cuts to state agencies. Funding for higher education, for example, was cut nearly 16 percent. Funding for K-12 education took a smaller hit, but this came after years of cuts. State agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, have taken drastic measures to survive the budget crisis, including a freeze on child care subsidies, which has now been lifted. In short, the state remains in a financial free fall.

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