OU Hosts Environmental Journalism Conference

539 journalists, scientists, government officials, representatives of business and industry from around the world explored Oklahoma’s ecologically-diverse landscape during the 25th Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting in Norman, October 7 through 11, 2015.

The University of Oklahoma served as hosts for the conference, “Weather, Water and Energy:  News in Every Neighborhood,” which led journalists to numerous environmental sites around the state, locally and on the OU Norman campus.  Oklahoma’s 38 federally recognized tribes play an important role in telling the state story, so environmental topics affecting the tribes were told throughout the conference.

Day tours will took journalists to environmental sites in Oklahoma where they saw firsthand how scientists are cleaning up the Tar Creek Superfund site, preserving the Tallgrass Prairie, addressing the impacts of drought in the Altus area, and maintaining the delicate water balance in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer—the source of water for millions who visit the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

One of the most popular tours offered was the Drilling and Fracking Tour. Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering (MPGE) director Chandra Rai and Associate Professor Catalin Teodoriu provided the group with an overview of drilling at OU’s Well Construction Technology Center. Participants learned about hydraulic fracturing equipment and saw experiments being performed by graduate students.

From there, the tour met with MPGE alumnus Kim Hatfield, President, Crawley Petroleum; and Seismic Coordinating Council Chairman, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Mr. Hatfield presented on the SCOOP oil play, and legislative changes to promote larger drilling and spacing units for horizontal drilling. He further discussed his role on the Seismic Coordinating Council, and how the role industry plays in providing information to the Oklahoma Geological Survey and Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Monika Freyman, senior manager of the water program Ceres, spoke with the journalists about water use for hydraulic fracturing in drought stressed areas before arriving for a tour of Pecan Hill, a new freshwater delivery pipeline. While there, Oklahoma Energy and Environment Secretary Michael Teague discussed his office’s duties, combining energy and environment cabinet positions, his role in the Seismic Coordinating Council and how his office is providing information to the public about earthquakes and disposal wells.

Finally, Kyle Murray, hydrologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, provided participants with an understanding of produced water disposal and the hydraulic cycle.

The 2015 Society of Environmental Journalists annual meeting provided an excellent opportunity for Oklahoma, OU and MPGE to promote and educate about the oil and gas industry and the prominent role we continue to play in its development and future.

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