Roth: 400 ppm tipping point?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 3, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

400 ppm tipping point?

Safe carbon levels in Earth’s atmosphere are now a thing of the past, as many scientists conclude we may have just passed the tipping point for our planet’s climate, based upon readings from this week’s carbon levels.

The lowest carbon levels of an entire year typically occur in the later part of September, yet September 2016 just saw another historic event in climate science with carbon dioxide levels remaining above 400 ppm (parts per million) for the first time in recorded history. In fact, scientists are able to conclude that it’s the first time in over 3 million years, considering that the Earth just surpassed the 400 ppm level in 2013. Now we’ve missed our annual minimum from even dipping below that level, just three years on.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first measured the 400 ppm threshold from its monitoring station in Hawaii in 2013, causing worry around the world from scientists and environmentalists who have long held that level as the threshold to avoid irreversible changes to climate, weather, sea levels and ice cover. The same NOAA station at Mauna Loa Observatory just recorded that “Carbon dioxide just hits its annual minimum …and failed to dip below 400 ppm” on Wednesday.

For years many scientists have suggested that 350 ppm is the upper limit of safe CO2 levels in the atmosphere, with 400 ppm considered the line not to cross, yet this week’s reality suggests that we are continuing to add 2 ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, with no real change in sight.

And to be clear, it’s not all the fault of fossil fuels, although the broader industrialization of planet Earth’s more populous countries over the last two centuries has been proven to accelerate us all to the current reality. Other causes, including those that have perhaps forced September to not dip backwards to its annual minimum, come from other sectors of the world’s economies (agriculture, deforestation, etc.) and other naturally occurring realities, evident this September.

Why September?

The month of September is usually the month with the lowest levels of carbon in the atmosphere because the effect of massive summer plants growing and absorbing the CO2 in the Northern Hemisphere in particular. And as the calendar moves on, those plants and trees lose their leaves, decompose and again release the carbon into the atmosphere. And with the greater industrialization of the planet, humans have been adding more and more carbon dioxide than Earth’s remaining plants can absorb. Thus, when the natural seasonal effects happen the absorbed carbon is released into a world that already has carbon levels too high.

To see an amazing visualization of the growing carbon levels, please check out NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at gfycat.com/InexperiencedFalseGypsymoth.

Next week I’ll share a few ideas for things we can do in our own lives to help slow the harm we are all witnessing.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Time to garden?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on September 26, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Time to garden?

Now that the autumnal equinox has begun and the heat of summer is subsiding, it might surprise you to know this is an excellent time to plant a garden.

Gardening is truly a year-round activity and in Oklahoma some of the best vegetables are grown and harvested in the fall. As more and more Americans grow interested in the source, quality and integrity of their food, more and more Americans are growing their own. And the unique mixture of Oklahoma’s warm autumn days followed by cool, humid nights creates great climate conditions for high-quality vegetables.

Oklahomans can confidently sow carrots, beans, cucumbers, summer squash, beets, Irish potatoes, lettuce, mustard, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips, according to the Master Gardener programs at the Oklahoma State University Extension Services across our state. To learn more specifics, please check out www.tulsamastergardeners.org.

Timing

You will want to contemplate a few things on the timing of your plantings for different types of vegetables. Your planting should be timed to allow frost-sensitive plants (like beans, squash and cucumbers) to mature before Oklahoma’s frost begins, which as we Oklahomans know is often hard to predict. And for those vegetables that have more tolerance for frost, (like beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, Irish potatoes, leaf lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, Swiss chard and turnips) they can be grown and harvested even during times of mild fall frosts later in the season. And if you are late to plant this fall, your best bet is probably mustard and spinach.

You may also opt for transplanting starter plants for your fall garden, rather than using seeds, as germinating seeds will obviously take longer to grow and produce and also pose more risk regarding water levels as their small root systems require daily attention.

Desirable soil conditions for fall

If you’ve just come off a spring or summer garden it is recommended that you clean up existing plants and mulch the soil to pre-cool it. After about a week, remove the mulch and analyze the soil to determine what if anything else may help to prepare it. Modifying or improving the soil with fertilizers, adding organic materials and improving aeration and drainage go a long way to creating the desirable soil for your garden. Additional fertilizers may be beneficial to stimulate growth and production. These might be incorporated in the soil prior to planting your garden or applied on the soil surface later.

And since fall seeds are planted shallower than warmer-weather gardens, sufficient water is critical to their growth and production.

Soils that produced a spring or summer vegetable crop will be more easily managed and readied than those made from scratch from established grasses and yards. If you are starting a fall garden from scratch, please do consult the OSU Extension advice and suggestions for soil preparation, soil quality and planting methods to obtain a garden of plenty for your upcoming holidays and family meals.

Bringing a homegrown food dish to share with family and friends is a very thoughtful way to share the bounty. And because fall vegetables are often more dense and productive than those that survive our summer season, you may end up with extra vegetables to can and preserve for those cold winter months that will be here sooner than we might like to admit.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Sunny opportunity for Oklahoma schools?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on September 12, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Sunny opportunity for Oklahoma schools?

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute and other reputable observers, “Oklahoma had the dubious honor of having made the deepest cuts to school funding in the nation since the start of the recession in 2008. Now an update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that our lead has widened. Adjusted for inflation, Oklahoma’s per student school formula funding has dropped 23.6 percent over the past six years, significantly more than in any other state.”

And that observation was in late 2014. As of 2016, on average Oklahoma continues to spend at the rate that maintains our ranking as 48th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

And as we know today our state’s budget dilemmas have only worsened in 2015 and 2016, with historic funding cuts further affecting investments in our public schools, our teachers and ultimately our young citizen students.

But rather than focusing on the budget appropriation side of schools’ economics, I want to share an idea with our state leaders that might actually be a win-win for schools by creating real budget relief in the form of lowering their costs of operations and creating an income opportunity.

Here’s how: Oklahoma’s 1,784 public school buildings spend a great deal of money to provide electricity for heating and cooling throughout the school year, and this growing expense in each school’s annual budget is often regarded as a mandatory expense without options. But that’s not true; Oklahoma does have options.

Imagine the installation of solar panels on top of many of these more than 1,000 school buildings all across the state, generating more electricity than the school itself needs and exporting that excess power to the grid, every month of the year and actually creating more income back to the school than the solar systems cost. Yes, income. How’s that for running government like a business?

It’s happening all across America already, as solar energy is booming in America, with installations in 2016 expected to double the amount from record-breaking 2015 and a trend line toward 20 gigawatts annually by 2020. The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70 percent over the last 10 years, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide, including with many business and schools.

According to a recent report by the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are nearly 4,000 K-12 schools in the United States with active solar systems, meaning more than 2.7 million American students attend solar schools. The report also found that thousands of other schools could save money by going solar. The large, flat rooftops typically found on public and private K-12 school buildings throughout Oklahoma make these buildings ideal for rooftop solar photovoltaic or solar thermal systems.

Parking lots and solar canopies are another obvious opportunity for Oklahoma schools to generate power, even more than their own buildings require, and the beauty of solar power is that the systems are generating energy at the most expensive time of the day. If you want to teach students something smart and observable every day outside of a textbook or a web page, schools can instruct students by doing something so obvious and observable to them every day.

Oklahoma is home to only one current solar installation at a public school, in the Tulsa area, yet there is enormous potential for school districts of all sizes all across the state. Our Legislature and our governor will need to agree with this idea and make slight changes to Oklahoma law to unlock this opportunity for our many cash-strapped public schools.

The utilities may fight it, as they’ve shown an intention so far to work against citizens who want to install and afford solar, but the Oklahoma taxpayer will love it. And after all, public officials take an oath to serve the citizens and this sunny opportunity is a great way to bring funding relief to our schools.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Happy birthday for all of us Americans

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 29, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Happy birthday for all of us Americans

If this heading makes you think you’ve picked up a copy of The Journal Record’s July 4th issue, I apologize for the confusion. We are always right to joyously celebrate our country’s Independence Day and the importance of the somewhat intangible principles of freedom and liberty that bind our amazing republic, but I am wishing you all a very happy birthday for something more tangible: the land, rivers, valleys and mountains that make up our National Park Service, which turned 100 on Aug. 26.

Happy birthday indeed. The first hundred years have not been easy, including the start in 1916 when Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, creating a new agency with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with the roles of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of places while also making them available for public use and enjoyment.

According to their mission: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.”

With more than 275 million visitors a year, our national parks create unique opportunities for busy American families, who now more than ever dwell in urban settings, to connect with nature and to develop an appreciation for the boundless, living world around our beautiful America.

Even before the National Park Service was officially begun, patriotic tributes to our land existed in many forms, such as America the Beautiful, whose words were first written as a poem in 1895, then soon combined with a choirmaster’s music and published in their first form in 1910. The lyrics we know today are as important to honor our American experience as perhaps our national anthem:

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

We should honor and defend these treasures in every way, as a unique enrichment to the American experience.

And just this past week, the designation of the 87,500-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument along the Maine Coast and the Penobscot River, creating the 413th national park site, home to lynx, bears, moose, brook trout and rare birds such as the American three-toed woodpecker, provides yet another chance for all Americans to visit the land from sea to shining sea.

When I was a teenager, my dad began offering me life and financial advice from his own observations. And although I wish I would have taken better to heart concepts like compounding interest, something that has always stayed with me was his admonition to: “invest in the land and earth around you, as it may be the only finite resource as an investment choice you can make.”

I am thankful that our forebearers believed the same about the amazing majesty of places like Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, the Great Smokey Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and so many others. Cheers to the next 100 years.

So please, as you contemplate the ways you might celebrate your upcoming Labor Day holiday, please consider visiting one of your many national parks, monuments and sites and help celebrate those visionaries that made today’s inspiration still possible.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: The built environment and coming trends

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 22, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

The built environment and coming trends

I once read “A house is made of bricks and beams, a home is made of hopes and dreams,” which is a great way to describe the difference between a structure and a habitat.

And we in America, where home ownership has long been described as a main ingredient to the American dream, spend a great deal of thought and action focused on the habitat, but seemingly much less intention about the structure itself. And both matter.

Most of us live in homes or apartments built by other people or companies, however large or small the development. About 66.5 percent of our state’s citizens live in owner-occupied housing, with a median value of $115,000, monthly owner costs of around $1,150 including the mortgage and an average of 2.56 people per household, according to the U.S. Census. For those of us that rent, the median gross rent is $717.

But as we learn more about choices in our built environment, Americans are becoming more conscience of the brick and beams that might determine how comfortable and how affordable our habitat becomes. Old construction techniques with cheaper windows, little to no insulation, inefficient lighting and appliances and inefficient heat and air can actually cost a family more over time than a well-built home with a slightly higher mortgage or rent and lower utilities.

Americans today, before they remodel an existing home or build a new one, are considering energy-efficiency issues more than ever and many are undertaking what’s known as the whole-house systems approach for analysis. Some utilities sponsor energy assessments and retrofit programs and many modern builders are taking the lead to achieve higher Home Energy Scores in the national rating system developed by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Some trends in housing are moving the proverbial ball even further toward ultra-efficient homes, which combine state-of-the-art construction materials and techniques, lighting and commercially available renewable energy systems, such as geothermal and solar energy technologies sited with the home. Builders are also taking advantage of climate and topographic realities to position homes to block out excessive heat gain, but also maximize passive-solar gain at times like the winter months.

Here are a few of the additional, available trends to achieve your own ultra-efficient home or remodel project:

  • Energy-efficient appliances and home electronics.
  • Conservation principles for energy and materials.
  • Low-energy lighting and greater use of daylighting.
  • Advanced house framing, which reduces lumber use and waste.
  • Cool roofs, which use highly reflective materials to absorb less heat by reflecting more of the sunlight during hot weather.
  • Passive solar heat design, such as southern-facing windows that would allow the lower winter sun to help with heat gain, but perhaps with an awning or overhang that protects from the higher summer sun’s unforgiving heat.
  • Increased focus on a healthy home environment, such as increased air and water supply quality, and reducing or eliminating harmful materials or chemicals.

So whether you are a renter saving to buy a home, a homeowner ready to remodel your built environment or a person looking to design or build your own habitat, efficiency in many more forms than ever before will be found not only in the design of these structures, but also in most of the products that are used in the construction of them. Consumer awareness and demand are growing technological choices and the development of products for the most efficient built environment in American history, sans perhaps our forebearers who lived off the local land with a mutual respect for it and it for them.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Rhetoric and regulation

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 15, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Rhetoric and regulation

I’m about to share an opinion that seems highly unpopular today: I believe there is a role for government and responsible regulation to keep people safe.

Why is that so unpopular? Or even controversial to some? Perhaps it’s because I’m an Oklahoman who dares suggest that government has a role to play in our collective lives or perhaps it’s because I’m suggesting that people may need protection, in some form, from businesses that serve the public at large.

But if you are the parent of a 10-year-old boy who died at a Kansas City water park, or of any of the three young girls dumped out of a malfunctioning Ferris wheel in Tennessee, or of the boy who fell out of a wooden roller coaster in Pennsylvania, all in the past week, you may be wondering why tragedy befell your loved one and why more wasn’t done by the regulator to keep them safe.

Regulation, such as the role of regulators to inspect and approve the operation of amusement parks, equipment and rides, comes in many forms in American life, yet it seems to have become a bad word in political rhetoric in these modern times. And to be honest, I’m really at a loss as to why.

We’ve all heard the rhetoric: “too many regulations are killing jobs” or “we don’t need government regulation micro-managing our lives.” But which specific regulations are actually killing jobs by saving people’s lives? And if that’s the trade-off, doesn’t regulation win that swap each day and in every way?

I once had a close friend, a very smart business owner with hundreds of employees, tell me he was voting for George W. Bush so he would “rein in OSHA and needless safety regulations.” My friend left me perplexed as he seemingly framed it in an excessive cost-to-doing-business argument.

Yet, when I did some research for myself, I learned that the American Journal of Industrial Medicine actually concluded that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not kill jobs; rather, it prevents jobs from killing workers.

The much-maligned Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s Clear Air Act, among many other environmental and public health law objectives. Chiefly the Clean Air Act, first passed in 1973, and amended in 1990, both by Republican presidents, is a comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions and air quality by removing dangerous pollutants that “endanger public health and welfare.”

As of the 2011 prospective cost-benefit analysis, it has been determined that massive reductions in pollutants like sulfur dioxide, mercury and nitrous oxide have now helped avoid up to 230,000 premature deaths for Americans over the age of 30 each year, help avoid 280 infant deaths a year, have dramatically reduced bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory disease and in turn will help America save over $3.7 trillion in annual benefits by 2020.

And yet this campaign for president features a debate over reopening old coal mines for out-of-work coal miners, who while mining the greatest source of pollution when burned, suffer much risk to injury and health themselves. The better idea may be to retrain them for something that is better for themselves and all the rest of us.

So when you hear politicians talk in large generalized platitudes attacking big, bad ol’ “job-killing regulations,” please ask them:

Which regulation can you prove has cost how many jobs?

Or, which amusement park, factory or meat-processing plant should we not inspect?

Or, what harm, injury or death to your loved ones would you say is worth having for less regulation?

And please be specific.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Summer driving is not helping oil, gas

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 8, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Summer driving is not helping oil, gas

The American Automobile Association, better known as AAA, has a motto: “Always take the scenic route.”

And America surely affords many options for great scenery along its roadsides in all corners and across this great country. But the view and the reality of how we traverse these miles are changing in ways we’ve never seen before.

In the midst of the annual “summer driving season” the price of oil and gas has seen an unusual slump, now well off double digits from around Memorial Day.

The overproduction of refined petroleum in the form of gasoline has Americans enjoying much cheaper fuel than usual and even cheaper than expected for 2016. According to GasBuddy’s 2016 forecast (www.gasbuddy.com), June was forecast to average $2.48 a gallon, July $2.43 and August $2.46. So far the data that’s in shows us that June came in at a national average of $2.36 and July is expected to have averaged $2.24 for unleaded fuel. These amounts are 5 percent and 8 percent lower than forecast, respectively.

So while the good news for drivers is that roadside fuel options are cheaper than normal, the view for producers and production states like Oklahoma is that the typical increased demand of summer may not be playing out to help grow commodity values for oil and gas.

In fact, the market prices have slid significantly since the start of this summer, even dipping below $40 a barrel for the first time in nearly four months. Oil prices are now down more than 20 percent since hitting $51 a barrel just two months ago, making prices officially corrected in a “bear” market now.

And the horizon is drawing further concern that this oil glut will remain with gasoline inventories at record highs. Many market watchers are critical of America’s refineries for over-refining in the past few months, which may lead to further retraction in oil prices now as crude inventories and storage are further backed up with less demand coming from those very refineries soon. The typically historic expectations, like summer demand, seem to be absent in this new world for America’s oil and gas producers.

New impacts, such as Wall Street investors and large hedge funds, are seemingly playing an even more significant role than weather, driving demand and economic output, and all indications are that those bets may carry more sway than ever before.

In fact, according to Bloomberg’s analysis of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission statistics, money managers have raised their short positions this summer by the largest amount on record, going back to 2006. America’s hedge fund managers, emboldened by producers’ increased drilling activities – six weeks of increased nationwide rig counts – are largely betting against American oil.

So all of this is great news for American drivers, with national gasoline prices averaging $2.13 a gallon last week, compared with $2.66 at this point last year.

But to be honest, I would pay a bit more for my summer road trip if I thought it would put some Oklahomans back to work and send much needed school funding back into the classrooms. But if Wall Street behavior toward the Oil Patch is any indication of the months ahead, the famous line from Bette Davis in All About Eve feels more appropriate: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Do you know what the parties stand for?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 1, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Do you know what the parties stand for?

Summers in America are renowned for great movies and many entertainment choices.

This year, and every four years in America, we also had marathon political party conventions to help entertain us with showmanship and drama. Whether it’s the Ted Cruz and his “vote your conscience” non-endorsement or the Democratic National Committee emails showing favoritism against Bernie Sanders, much of the news around this political theater focused on what happened on the stage.

But what probably matters more to Americans, and what may forecast probable impacts to our lives, is what is really happening behind the curtain so-to-speak: the party platforms.

For us Oklahomans, where we know the land we belong to is grand, there ought to be a heightened awareness to the energy, environment and climate positions and objectives of political parties and presidential candidates. So in case you are curious, here is a sampling of those platform polices just approved by both parties the last two weeks.

Democratic Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Calls on the U.S. to generate half of its electricity from clean resources in the next decade and cleaner transportation fuels; requests tax code changes to create incentives for renewable energy.
  • Environmental policy: Calls for the end of the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, ensuring tough safeguards are in place to protect local water supplies.
  • Climate change position and policy: Calls for setting a price on greenhouse gas emissions; calls on government officials at all levels to take any steps possible to reduce pollution rather than waiting for Congress to act.

Green Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Advocates a rapid reduction in energy consumption through energy efficiency and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources; encourage conservation; move toward renewable sources; decentralize the grid; and re-localize the food system.
  • Environmental policy: Extensive platform positions focus on environmental justice and conclude that it is founded on two fundamental beliefs: that all people have the right to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthful environments, and that people have the right to influence decisions that affect environmental quality in their communities.
  • Climate change position and policy: Want to stop runaway climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent by 2020 and 95 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Libertarian Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy; oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.
  • Environmental Policy: Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.
  • Climate change position and policy: While there is no specific reference to climate change, some related positions include: Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection; protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.

Republican Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Calls for the approval and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian and U.S. fossil fuel resources to further U.S. markets; coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.
  • Environmental policy: Propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation to the states, away from the EPA, and to transform the EPA into a bipartisan independent commission.
  • Climate change position and policy: Climate change is far from the nation’s most pressing national security issue and calls for the repeal of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan; opposed to international accords like the agreement crafted recently in Paris last year; forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.

Follow these links to see more: www.demconvention.com/platform; www.gp.org/platform;www.lp.org/platform; and www.gop.com/platform.

Happy reading and no matter what, please vote.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: PSO, AMI and ROI

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on July 25, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

PSO, AMI and ROI

Wow, it’s hot. And it looks like it’s gonna be hot for a while still, as is not a surprise to us Oklahomans.

And once you recall the incredibly warm winter we just had, one can only imagine what August may feel like here. And as we’ve been discussing the last few weeks, a high-temperature weather month can often be followed by a high-cost electric utility bill the next billing cycle.

And as we’ve learned, deployment of new technology is providing customers near real-time price information and abilities to monitor and manage monthly costs, while also providing utility providers with a new slew of information and efficiencies to improve service and lower costs. It’s proving to have a real return on investment for both sides of the meter, so-to-speak.

Case in point: AEP’s Public Service Company of Oklahoma and their advanced metering infrastructure, as of this month, is now fully deployed across PSO’s vast Oklahoma service territory with the installation of more than 560,000 new meters, including those first pilot program meters in the Owasso area beginning in 2010. And with a seemingly huge reception from all territory customers, with over 99.5 percent of customers participating in the AMI program.

PSO has rightly indicated that the AMI program will provide an array of benefits to customers.

And they are not alone as several Oklahoma electric utilities have been using this type of technology for many years and the penetration rate nationwide is nearly 50 percent. I’m glad to see our customers are faring better than the national average and I’m also glad to know that PSO meets the highest standards of cybersecurity with encrypted technology to safeguard customer information. In fact, the Oklahoma Electric Usage Data Protection Act prohibits all utilities from providing any customer information to outside third parties.

And now for the extraordinarily good news for PSO customers: With the full installation of this metering technology, PSO was greatly aided in responding to the devastating storms and outages earlier in July (with 109,000 customers out at one point it was the third-largest storm by customers affected in PSO’s history), the AMI made possible the restoration of service to nearly everyone within three days.

And for those regular storm-free days when Oklahoma’s heat bakes the state, AMI has helped PSO provide new programs for customers’ budget needs, such as PowerHours and PowerPay.

PowerHours, which is similar to OG&E’s SmartHours program, runs June through October and allows enrolled customers to choose from four programs to save money through managed use.

Information on the options is available at www.psopowerhours.com.

Likewise, PowerPay is a voluntary program where customers can prepay for their usage, giving them greater control over the frequency and timing of their payments. No more surprise utility bills the month after high prices. Instead the customer is engaged in energy consumptions, management and related savings in this pay-as-you-go approach. It’s not for everyone, but is a good option for many, so please check it out and see if it’s right for your budget and household.

The return on PSO’s AMI investments can be directly enjoyed by its customers who explore these options, enroll in those that make the most sense for them, and control their own destiny through price signals, energy shifts and energy savings. It’s an exciting time when the cost of next month’s utility bill is based upon what customers choose to do this month for themselves.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: It’s 4 p.m. Do you know where your thermostat is?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on July 11, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

It’s 4 p.m. Do you know where your thermostat is?

It used to be asked if people knew where their children were at 10 p.m. as a form of safety check and good parenting. And that edict proved a helpful reminder.

But now, other times of the day pose danger for your families and only until recently can we help avoid or lessen those dangers.

It’s the risk to your families’ budgets from extraordinarily high electricity prices that occur often in the summer afternoons. For many decades before now, Americans never knew what cost spikes existed, leading to unpredictable monthly electricity bills. But the times they are a-changin’.

This past week as I stood in line at the post office a few minutes before 4 p.m., I received a text message as a participant in OG&E’s Smart Hours Program alerting me to a “critical price event,” beginning at 4 p.m., where the price of electricity would escalate to 44 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than four times the usual average.

A gentleman in line behind me must have received the same text as he soon thereafter called home to ask his wife to “turn up the thermostat and turn off the unnecessary appliances for the next three hours.”

And this man was probably in his mid-80s and seemed delighted at the opportunity to react to a price signal and save his family money. Each day’s text message also forecasts the price of the next day’s prices between 2 and 7 p.m., usually at the “high rate of 18 cents per kWh.” This is revolutionary.

And we Americans have seen other, once-dominant, mostly utility-like monopolies move to finally provide price signals for the consumers. I am referring to telecommunications and the growth of price transparency and ultimately competition.

Once we Americans learned to not “call family and friends until after 7 p.m.” it revolutionized the cost of long-distance and base rates for phone service and led to consumer choice, innovation and competitiveness. It also led to the decline in landline phones and the emergence and now prolific existence of wireless devices.

Today, we are just 20 years after the federal deregulation of telecommunications under President Bill Clinton, when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first significant change in 60 years, and included the first inclusion of the internet in these issues. And today, most Americans have more technology in the palm of their hands than ever before and consumer price signals and consumer choice have ushered in a whole new reality.

The same is on the verge of being true for your electric utility bill, although not required by federal enactment, but driven by new technologies, consumer education and electricity providers working to usher in a new generation of electric generation.

Next week I’ll highlight a few of the global trends and the local utility options available to us Oklahomans in this relatively new and exciting frontier.

In the meantime, if it’s between 4 and 7 p.m. today, you might consider adjusting your electricity usage and saving your family some of that hard-earned money.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: It’s twilight in Great Britain and the sunset is near

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on June 27, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

It’s twilight in Great Britain and the sunset is near

“The empire on which the sun never sets” is a phrase used for centuries to describe certain global empires that were so large that at least one part of their claimed territory was always in daylight.

This phrase was originally used for the Spanish Empire, mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries, and its most notable use has been in reference to the British Empire, mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the British Empire spanned a global territorial size larger than any other empire in history.

Famously, the independence of the 13 colonies and the founding of the United States caused Britain to lose some of its most important territory, but its dominance across the globe continued strong into the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution and the power of the imperial British navy.

But much has changed since those days and not just through the independence of former British sovereigns such as India, Zimbabwe (last colony in Africa), Belize (last colony in the Americas) and Hong Kong (last in Asia) in the late 20th century, but also economically as the world economy has blurred the lines of sovereign nations and made regional and global trade a universal currency.

Gone are the days when Great Britain could rely upon steady supply lines of raw materials from all corners of the globe to feed its booming industrial complex and grow its economy. For decades its waning global dominance has perhaps been shrouded by its involvement in the European Union, where 28 member states, accounting for just 7.3 percent of the world’s population, constitute 24 percent of the global gross domestic product in one single market across its members. This combined market advantage has made Europe an economic amalgamation that has proven much stronger together than separate economies that were ill-suited for events like the Great Recession and financial crisis of 2007-08.

Yet, this past week’s Brexit vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union has perhaps hastened the sun setting on this once great power, forever. Gone are the territories in every region of the world, together with a once-dominant naval presence to move goods across the globe. Gone too are the manufacturing sectors and industrial output that once could have allowed Great Britain to better stand alone and even build its own military if required to defend itself as it did in much of the first half of the 20th century in Europe. Today, 74 percent of Britain’s GDP is the service economy, including the financial services sector, but much of which is reliant upon relationships with foreign investment and investors in the EU and beyond. And now gone soon will be the regional economic, political and military advantages that come with the European Union and Great Britain will stand alone, from sunup to sun down with a shrinking role in the world.

And for what? Because many aging British retirees fear the current economy and impacts to their government pensions? Because many lesser-educated and rural citizens and those with blue-collar jobs are mad at the immigration influx creating a more competitive workforce? They want “Great Britain first.” Those demographic distinctions are what actual polling results have revealed from the Brexit vote.

So older, less-educated, mostly rural citizens wanted to “take their country back” and “make Great Britain Great Again” and they have pushed their once great, global empire faster and further into the twilight of their own setting sun.

Does that fear sound familiar?

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Director shares insights into Oklahoma’s clean energy future with Sierra Club

Jim Roth represents individuals and both publicly-owned and private companies in a range of business, energy and environmental issues, as well as a variety of public policy and regulatory matters.

Jim Roth represents individuals and both publicly-owned and private companies in a range of business, energy and environmental issues, as well as a variety of public policy and regulatory matters.

Phillips Murrah Director Jim Roth spoke to the Sierra Club on June 16 about issues regarding Oklahoma’s future in the clean energy arena.

“The Sierra Club has been a national leader in moving the American economy towards a low emission future,” he said. “Oklahoma is perfectly situated with low-emitting resources in abundance: clean burning natural gas; significant wind integrations and now tremendous solar potential.”

Jim is Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. As a former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, Jim helps his energy clients navigate the regulatory environment encompassing new and existing energy technologies so they can accomplish their business and policy goals.

For years, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club has successfully protected Oklahoma’s wildlife, preserved its natural resources, and educated the public on many issues at the local, state, and federal level.

Learn more about the Sierra Club’s Oklahoma Chapter here.

Roth: Oklahomans deserve to hear the facts about wind energy

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on June 20, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Oklahomans deserve to hear facts about wind energy

It’s no surprise that a review of taxes and tax incentives has recently garnered significant attention from lawmakers, voters and the news media as legislators worked this session to combat a historic budget shortfall. One of the most scrutinized policies has been the zero-emissions tax credit, set to expire in 2020, which will be the wind energy industry’s only remaining tax credit as of the end of this year.

As an Oklahoman dedicated not just to forward-looking, clean energy solutions, but also as someone who champions a diverse energy economy in our state, I’ve been floored by the misinformation about wind energy espoused recently by some state officials, reporters and other influencers. It’s time to set the record straight.

Perhaps the most egregiously misrepresented topic is the value of the last remaining tax credit in comparison to the dollars wind energy brings to our state, both in terms of corporate, ad valorem and other tax contributions and in terms of investment, jobs and infrastructure.

Some outspoken opponents have nonsensically implied wind energy’s one incentive is to blame for everything from the budget deficit to ongoing declines in general revenue collections. However, they fail to produce numbers that support these claims and do not consider how incentives to other industries – some of which receive multiple incentives – affect the state’s coffers as well. This paints an inflammatory, misleading and inaccurate picture of the billions of dollars the wind energy industry has contributed and will continue to contribute to our tax base and to state and local economies.

For 2015, the wind energy industry will receive an estimated $46 million as a result of this tax credit, a helpful but relatively small incentive compared to other industries, when considering facts such as:

• The industry has invested nearly $10 billion in Oklahoma and plans to continue investing.

• Economists predict wind energy developers will contribute about $1.2 billion in ad valorem taxes alone through 2043, directly benefiting local schools and communities.

• More than 7,000 Oklahomans can attribute their jobs to wind energy.

• Oklahoma’s largest utilities (OG&E and PSO) have locked in over $2 billion in customer savings through their own wind contracts, according to their own statements.

The zero-emissions tax incentive was created with the goal of drawing renewable investment to Oklahoma during a time when we were missing out on these dollars due to more attractive financial circumstances in neighboring states. Because of our incentive, wind energy now produces almost one-fifth of the electricity powering our homes and businesses and provides the cheapest form of electricity to Oklahomans. The case for keeping wind in our diverse energy mix is a strong one. And it’s made even stronger by tough state budgets reeling from a downturn in the oil and gas industries.

I encourage our elected officials, news media and others to check the facts and make sure the full story on wind energy is being told. As November elections draw near and Oklahoma voters evaluate our state’s leadership, its only right they hear the unbiased truth about this major economic contributor for Oklahoma. The truth my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Pioneers take solar-powered airplane around the globe

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on June 6, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Pioneers take solar-powered airplane around the globe

The Solar Impulse project was co-founded by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. These two pioneers are currently piloting the Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, on a trip around the world.

The Si2’s trip around the world began in Abu Dhabi in 2015. There are 16 scheduled legs on its journey, and the team completed the 13th leg on Wednesday when it landed at Leigh Valley International Airport in Pennsylvania.

The Si2 is powered exclusively by the sun’s energy, which is converted by the aircraft’s 17,248 solar cells. These cells fuel the plane during the day. Excess energy that is not used to propel the aircraft is sent to the lithium polymer batteries that are housed with the four engines. The Si2 relies on energy stored in the batteries for power during low-light hours and overnight.

The Si2 is lightweight, has a lower power consumption, and has a wide wingspan. In fact, it weighs about as much as a family car, has the power of a small motorcycle, and has a wider wingspan than a Boeing 747. The lightweight design, coupled with the wingspan, allows the Si2 to travel long distances and consume minimal amounts of energy. One problem with the low weight is that the aircraft is vulnerable to turbulence. The Si2 was recently parked in Tulsa for a week while the team waited for a break from high wind speeds.

The Si2’s entire design and flight plan were built around energy efficiency. For example, one strategy to conserve energy is to ascend to 8,500 meters during the day and descend to 1,500 meters at night. A typical day of the Si2’s trip around the world begins with the plane taking off at sunrise. The four propellers run at full power using the sun’s energy, and the aircraft climbs to its maximum altitude. As the sun begins to set, the engines are throttled down and the aircraft descends to 1,500 meters over the course of several hours. At approximately 10 p.m., the engines are powered up again using the energy stored in the batteries. The Si2 will fly through the night on battery power. A new cycle begins at sunrise, when the solar cells resume fueling the aircraft and charging the batteries.

Piccard and Borschberg believe that renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency are the keys to reducing emissions and improving our quality of life. The Solar Impulse project aims to promote clean energy and its potential to fuel technological innovation. Many of the clean technologies developed for the Solar Impulse project have already been patented and are used in our everyday lives, including electric motors, batteries, and LED lighting. Piccard and Borschberg hope that their project will continue to encourage innovation and sustainable development, in the air and on the ground.

And that’s worth exploring, especially as we Americans stand in long lines through airport security screenings for endless hours this summer travel season.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Pollinators, the environment and the economy

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 23, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Pollinators, the environment and the economy

Bees are critical to our food supply and our economy. According to the president’s Pollinator Health Task Force, honeybee pollination alone adds $15 billion to the value of U.S. crops each year.

Bees pollinate a wide variety of crops, from corn to soybeans to apples to almonds. Bees and other pollinating insects travel from flower to flower, enticed by the plant’s sugary nectar. While the insect feeds, the plant covers it with pollen, which the insect then spreads to the next plant.

Pollinator populations are being threatened in several ways.

One problem that pollinating insects face is global climate change with rising temperatures. Scientists fear that climate change may be negatively affecting the plant-pollinator relationship. The problem is that many plants and pollinators respond to environmental cues, such as temperature and snow melt, in order to know when to flower and feed. If plants flower at different times or for shorter periods of time, this will negatively affect pollinating insects and their ability to spread pollen.

Another problem faced by pollinators is infectious disease. Diseases have traveled around the world with host populations due to the commercialization of honeybees and other pollinators. Hosts are naturally exposed to pathogens in a variety of ways, including flower sharing, social interactions, and predatory practices. Humans are also contributing to the spread of disease in both commercial and wild pollinator populations.

Honeybees have evolved and developed several ways of fighting disease on their own. One way is by naturally immunizing eggs as they develop in the queen bee. To do this, worker bees first collect bacteria from contaminated pollen and nectar in the environment. Then, the worker bees make royal jelly out of the bacteria-ridden pollen and nectar. The pathogens are passed to the queen when she feeds on the royal jelly. The pathogens spread to the eggs that are developing in the queen, which immunizes the unborn bees.

Honeybees also fight disease through nursing. Nursing bees will feed certain types of honey to infected brood to fight off different diseases. For example, linden honey is better at fighting off European foulbrood, while sunflower honey is better at fighting off American foulbrood. American foulbrood is a highly contagious bacterial disease. As the name suggests, it initially infects honeybee brood, and it eventually kills the entire colony.

Another threat to pollinators is the severe loss of their natural habitats. Agriculture, urban and suburban development, and resource development have all contributed to the destruction of natural habitats. Many pollinators have lost their winter habitats, as well as their feeding and breeding grounds. While some natural habitats have survived these human developments, many of the remaining habitats are fragmented. These small, isolated habitats may not serve all of the pollinators’ needs.

A final problem faced by pollinating insects is the use of pesticides. One particularly problematic pesticide is the neonicotinoid pesticide commonly referred to as neonics. These nicotine-based pesticides are used to coat the seeds of many crops, including corn and soybeans. Neonics are water-soluble, and the plants absorb the pesticide as they grow. The problem for pollinators is that trace amounts of the pesticide can be found in the flowers of the mature plants. The pesticide is picked up by the feeding pollinator. Eventually, the pesticide is carried back to the hive, where it can spread and kill the entire colony.

If you would like to help nurture and grow the pollinator community, please consider building a garden for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, as described here by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PollinatorGarden.html.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Corporate agribusiness and the right to harm

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 16, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Corporate agribusiness and the right to harm

State Question 777 is a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution, voted on by the Oklahoma State Legislature to appear on the general election ballot on Nov. 8. But this idea didn’t originate in Oklahoma; it’s part of a national push by corporate farming interests rolling across America. Which is ironic because most of Oklahoma’s largest corporate animal processors are Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian.

The Farm Bureau, a well-respected organization, is the face pushing for this measure, while the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Sierra Club and the Humane Society are some of those opposed.

The proposed amendment would add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution that would provide, in part, that “the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state.” This inspiring language has led proponents to refer to SQ 777 as the “right to farm.” However, the next sentence of the proposed amendment all but eliminates the Legislature’s ability to regulate farming in our state: “The Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.” Opponents refer to this proposed amendment as the “right to harm.”

Missouri narrowly passed a constitutional amendment in 2014, also the product of corporate agribusiness pushing constitutional protections against local regulation. That amendment was also sponsored by the national Farm Bureau and the like. The vague and sweeping language of the Missouri amendment – which is almost identical to the proposed amendment in SQ 777 – has already sparked litigation and legal challenges.

Not only is the language of the proposed constitutional amendment ambiguous, it is also superfluous in many ways because Oklahoma already has a right-to-farm statute that protects farmers from nuisance liability. The last subpart of the statute also provides that farmers must abide by state and federal laws, including the Oklahoma Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Act and the Oklahoma Registered Poultry Feeding Operations Act.  Legitimate farmers are well protected by existing Oklahoma law.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting provided 1.1 percent of Oklahoma’s gross domestic product in 2014. Oklahoma has more than 80,000 farms, which includes approximately 73,000 family farms and 1,900 corporate farms. About 75 percent of the land in our state is agricultural land, and the average farm size is 430 acres. The agricultural industry employs more than 120,000 Oklahomans.

If SQ 777 is passed by voters in November, it would have far-reaching and detrimental effects on family farms in our state, to the advantage of larger corporate interests. It would tie the hands of the state Legislature and municipalities, making it almost impossible to implement reasonable and necessary regulations to protect land and water from corporate pollution. As stated in the proposed amendment, the state Legislature will not be able to pass statutes regulating farming activities unless the Legislature can show a compelling state interest. This is an extremely high burden, and most proposed legislation would not be able to satisfy this threshold. What about cock-fighting? Or puppy mills? Or over-flowing waste lagoons?

No other industry is afforded this type of constitutional protection. Forcing state legislators and local regulators to satisfy such a high constitutional burden in order to protect the interests of their constituents will allow major corporate agribusiness to operate with virtual impunity in Oklahoma.

SQ 777 states that it will not overturn any existing legislation that was passed before Dec. 31, 2014. Several laws passed in 2015 could be reversed by SQ 777, including statutes regulating puppy mills in large cities and protecting pollinating insects.

If SQ 777 were passed, it would only invite more federal government intervention from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture. If state regulators are rendered impotent by a state constitutional provision, federal regulators will be forced to step in to address environmental concerns, animal rights, water contamination and other harms.

Surely we Oklahomans can be trusted to respect legitimate farming interests and to respect the land that we belong to as grand without having to concrete corporate farm immunity into our vaulted Constitution. Right?

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: The energy jobs debate

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 9, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

The energy jobs debate

This past week saw the release of the U.S. jobs report for April and its results of 160,000 new non-farm jobs, which was less than the expected 200,000. Worker pay did tick up 2.5 percent nationally, however, which may mean that employed Americans may have a bit more take-home pay to spend within the economy.

The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 5 percent (virtually half of what it was in May 2009), but if the labor market continues to soften, it’s now very likely that the Fed will not raise interest rates in June and perhaps only once in 2016 at the December meeting, after the presidential election.

Those of us who live in Oklahoma may be more acutely aware of the job market and the worry of a “soft” economy because as an energy state we’re seeing too many headlines lately about job layoffs. Yet, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for March was slightly up to 4.4 percent, still below the national average, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

But with many of our state’s economic eggs in the energy basket, worry is something we do, and we have learned from cycles now and in the past. The challenge remains to make sure our broader basket is growing and in more directions than one. And lucky for us, our Oklahoma energy mix is broader than most, with oil, gas, wind and solar options going forward for many decades to come.

A more difficult reality has hit other states like West Virginia and Kentucky, known for fewer energy options and mostly known for their Appalachia coal, which is experiencing historic declines due to its high sulfur content and environmental and health regulations.

The significance of that industry to those two states is why candidates for president are playing out the debate about energy jobs in the election foray. Recently candidate Hillary Clinton mentioned her commitment to developing a clean energy future and boasted about “putting a lot of coal miners out of work.” A tough comment for sure, especially for any of us empathetic to friends and colleagues out of work in today’s oil and gas patch. And so candidate Donald Trump pounced and at a large rally of 12,000 people in Charleston, West Virginia, a raucous crowd carrying large “Trump Digs Coal” signs cheered on the presumptive Republican nominee as he announced “We are going to get those mines open.”

But one must wonder how? And why? Does the candidate suggest reversing decades of Clean Air Act progress of removing toxic pollutants from the air so that coal has a growing market share again? He will need 60 senators to gut the law. And he might also need about 1,000 litigators (and 20 years) to defend the efforts from organizations like the American Lung Association, which has worked to reduce respiratory diseases by fighting for cleaner air, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has opposed coal plants’ mercury emissions because of the causal nexus with disease and health hazards for children.

But better health and environmental reasons aside, wouldn’t you think a candidate for president would be looking for ideas, policies and visions that moved the country forward, not back, and for which there may be wider public support of his or her energy positions?

For example, today there are more 150,000 American workers employed in the solar energy industry and growing. And the last time I looked, the sun shines over all 50 states.

In 2016, the American wind energy industry hit a new high, employing more than 88,000 American workers, and the DOE released a report recently suggesting the potential of 600,000 American jobs by 2050.

Now these numbers may seem large and they are certainly growing, but nothing compares to the 9.8 million jobs nationwide in the oil and gas industry, supporting about 8 percent of the entire gross domestic project. According to the American Petroleum Institute, 364,300 jobs in Oklahoma are supported by oil and gas, which may be good reason for the unease in our local economy today.

Whatever happens in our presidential politics this year, it’s my hope that America rallies to put the economy in drive, not reverse, and that our future energy development becomes the envy of the world. That’s what leadership can do. Please save the pandering for someone else.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: A two-day workweek?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 2, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

A two-day workweek?

History and science tell us that a year is based upon Earth’s one full revolution around the sun and that months on the calendar were designed to measure the time between full moons, yet the seven-day week seems to be something left over from Babylonians’ belief in seven planets in the solar system.

Well, we now know that belief, albeit 4,000 years old, is not accurate, since we have eight recognized planets (sorry Pluto), yet the seven-day week continues.

I have often wondered how America (and the world) ended up with an established five-day workweek and a two-day weekend. I mean after all, if the economy stabilized on this 5-and-2 split, wouldn’t it just the same stabilize over time if there was a two-day workweek and a five-day weekend?

It wasn’t until early in the 20th century in America, in 1908, when an American mill became the first factory to offer a two-day weekend to accommodate both Jewish and Christian workers, forcing other factories to soon follow and a century later here we are.

Over the years, observers, sociologists and economists have predicted that advancements in technology would lead to Americans working shorter hours, perhaps even less days, which would lead to increased productivity, better health, superior performance and greater job satisfaction. Even visionaries such as Google co-founder Larry Page have suggested shorter workweeks would likely increase productivity, yet they and all the rest of us seem to be working longer hours than ever, with no change in sight.

However, due to very unfortunate circumstances impacting Venezuela and its crumbling economy, the drought-stricken country has just announced a two-day workweek and a five-day weekend for its public sector employees, which are apparently a third of the country’s workforce.

Daily blackouts at the country’s largest hydroelectric plant have seriously interrupted their fragile economy and led to energy rationing. Without electricity, factories are idled, food is spoiling and schools remain closed without lights. And there does not appear to be any relief in sight soon.

As El Nino weather brings historic rains and flooding to parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it has led to crippling droughts in the south. Water levels are dangerously low at the Guri Reservoir, the 11th-largest man-made lake in the world, which feeds the country’s Guri Power Plant, with over 10,200 megawatts of capacity. It’s the fourth-largest power station in the world and provides about two-thirds of the country’s power. To give us some point of reference, in Oklahoma if you combined the state’s two largest public utilities (OG&E at approximately 6,000 MWs and PSO at approximately 4,500 MWs), this one power station is comparable to all of these utilities’ power plants, combined.

So while crisis has caused the implementation of scheduled rolling blackouts, four hours a day in much of the country, public sector employees will be experiencing five-day weekends until the energy and economic crises subsides. Whether that proves to increase productivity, as some economists suggested a century ago, is an open question.

For now, it’s a sad reality, made worse by government leaders who haven’t moved to diversify their energy economy, considering they have enormous potential for wind energy (estimated to exceed 10,000 MWs) and the country famously sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves, totaling 297 billion barrels as of 2014.

Perhaps Oklahoma’s budget crisis pales in comparison to the conditions in Venezuela, but there is no time like the present to make sure our state’s economy makes the most to develop our wind and solar energy potentials, in addition to growing reliable demand for our native oil and natural gas.

But then again, I’ve always been curious about whether a five-day weekend could “work” in America.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Can you feel the heat?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 25, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Can you feel the heat?

Although the spring season officially began one month ago, the temperature of spring was far ahead of the calendar this year. Did you feel the heat of 70-degree days in January and the warmest March in recorded history?

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for March 2016 was the highest in the 1880–2016 record, at 1.22 degrees Celsius (2.20 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average of 12.7 degrees Celsius (54.9 degrees Fahrenheit). In fact, March was the 11th consecutive month of historically warm records for the entire globe.

Average global temperatures have been rising for many years, and scientists have been watching closely to observe the effects of the warming climate. Temperatures began to rise during the industrial revolution in the early 20th century.

Scientists credit the burning of fossil fuels, as well as the cutting down and burning of forests, for causing this warming trend. The average global temperature has already risen 1 degree Celsius since 1900, and experts fear that if the average temperature rises an additional 1 degree there will be catastrophic effects.

The rising temperatures have caused natural disasters, including flooding, drought and wildfires. Over the past few days, an estimated 240 billion gallons of rainwater has fallen in and around Houston. Flooding there has claimed at least seven lives and caused at least $5 billion in property damage.

While south Texas has been bombarded with rain, other parts of the country are in desperate need of moisture. A wildfire that started in Oklahoma last month burned more than 400,000 acres of land in Oklahoma and Kansas. This was the largest wildfire the state of Kansas has ever experienced. On the other side of the globe, Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years. The United States sent disaster relief teams to Ethiopia last month to help them deal with the lack of food and fresh water.

Fresh drinking water is also at risk in Peru. There, glaciers have melted and reduced in surface area by 40 percent over the past 40 years. The runoff from all of this melting has carried acidic metals downstream and contaminated water sources.

Global warming has caused sea levels to rise an average of 7 inches over the past century, due to both glacial melting and the expansion of water as its temperature has increased. Elevated sea levels have caused coastal erosion, flooding, and aquifer contamination. In 2014, the Research Service in Wales estimated that 23 percent of its coastline experienced erosion, costing the country more than 287 million U.S. dollars.

Climate change has not only affected humans, it has also had detrimental effects on other ecosystems and habitats. Penguin populations in Antarctica have plummeted due to rising temperatures. Warmer, longer summers have caused beetle populations in Alaska to skyrocket, and they have chewed through millions of acres of spruce trees. The severe reduction of sea ice platforms has caused polar bear size and population to decrease dramatically.

In the Hudson Bay area, the ice-free summers have grown longer, shortening the polar bears’ hunting season. As a result, polar bear weight has dropped approximately 15 percent, and the population has declined by more than 20 percent.

While some may say we shouldn’t be alarmed by the loss or decline of these many species, I submit to you that the erratic nature of climate change is cause for concern for all species along the food chain, including humans at the top. A world out of balance, with crop failures, famine and massive human migration will cost the Earth inhabitants more in many ways not even fathomable today. While I am a curious person by nature, this risky future is something I would rather not learn firsthand.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Safe digging month and the web beneath us

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 18, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Safe digging month and the web beneath us

This time of year many Americans are coming out of their homes and their winter hibernations and beginning to tackle outdoor activities like gardening and projects around the home. But before you dig into spring projects, make sure you practice safe digging.

The Common Ground Alliance, a national organization dedicated to underground damage prevention, has proclaimed April as Safe Digging Month. Excavation damage is one of the leading causes of pipeline accidents and the unfortunate injuries that occur.

It is recommended that we Call 811 at least a few days before starting any digging project. Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, smart digging means calling 811 before each job. Data shows that when one calls 811 the appropriate amount of time before digging, there is less than a 1-percent chance of striking a buried utility line.

Here are a few things to know about the massive web of lines, pipes, wires and utilities underground here in Oklahoma and across America. An underground utility line is damaged once every six minutes nationwide because someone decided to dig without first learning what improvements exist below the surface of the earth. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in damage to gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines, which can lead to service disruptions, costly repairs, serious injuries and even death.

For decades, and in some places for centuries, common utilities, lines and infrastructure have been placed just below the surface to carry many life necessities from point A to B. According to the Common Ground Alliance, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States, according to data compiled from various industry groups. That figure equates to more than one football field’s length (105 yards) of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the U.S. And in an energy-producing state like ours, the intricate web is vast, including natural gas gathering systems, high-pressure transmitting pipelines and many other aspects of energy production and market distribution.

In Oklahoma, please call Oklahoma One-Call System Inc. at 811 or 1-800-522-6543. And if you will call no sooner than 48 hours they will be able to mark the areas on inquiry, and those markings, paint or flags should be safely valid for 10 days for you to dig.

The Oklahoma One-Call System Inc. (OKIE811) is a nonprofit 501(c)6 corporation, incorporated in the state of Oklahoma in 1979. It was formed for the purpose of preventing damage to underground facilities. Thirty-seven companies originally joined to fund a statewide one-call notification center. On April 22, 1981, Gov. Henry Bellmon signed into law an act known as the Oklahoma Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Act. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cal Hobson of Lexington and Rep. John Monks of Muskogee, became effective Jan. 1, 1982. The act provided that owners and operators of underground facilities must register through a notification system and all excavators must give notice to such underground operators at the notification system prior to excavation. Many lives have been saved because this system exists.

So please enjoy this wonderful spring weather and feel confident to tackle your excavation projects, but please first protect your life and your property by contacting 811 and learning what all exists below the surface of the land where you live, walk, work, drive, dig and garden.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Deaths in the oil patch from exposure to fumes

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 11, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Deaths in the oil patch from exposure to fumes

When I first joined the Oklahoma Corporation Commission years ago, the agency’s many talented Oil and Gas Division employees and inspectors taught me a lot about the issues in the field.

One new lesson that was a shock to learn was about the enormous dangers of deadly hydrogen sulfide in and around tank batteries, where oil and gas is collected from nearby wells. This killer gas is deadly in small amounts and it can stop a person’s breathing in seconds, rendering them unconscious or dead without much warning. In fact, as the concentration increases it apparently deadens a person’s sense of smell, rendering them unable to even detect the danger.

Since 2010, at least nine workers have died from exposure to hazardous gas vapors on oil production and storage tanks. These workers were alone, usually in the middle of the night, and were later found dead near an opening on top of the tanks. There seemed to be a pattern going unnoticed, and Mike Soraghan, a reporter for Energy Wire, sought to reveal it.

Five of the deceased workers were collecting fluid samples, and the remaining four were manually measuring production levels. To perform both of these tasks, workers had to climb ladders to access so-called “thief hatches” on top of the tanks. Once the hatch is opened, gas vapors that have built up in the tank rush out of the hatch. These vapors greatly displace oxygen in the air surrounding the hatch that can asphyxiate a person in a matter of seconds.

What makes these deaths even more tragic is that they were completely avoidable. There are ways to perform these tasks automatically without exposing workers to these toxic vapors. Unfortunately, the cost of installing the necessary equipment has caused many operators to continue using these dangerous methods.

Another problem is that safer practices cannot be employed on federally owned land due to outdated government agency rules. On federal and tribal leases, strict federal regulations allow only two methods of measurement: Lease Automatic Custody Transfer or manual measurement. LACT is the only automated method of measurement currently allowed on federal land. Because this system is so expensive, the vast majority of storage tanks on federal land are still checked manually.

The Bureau of Land Management is finally revising its rule regarding storage tank measurement, which has not been updated since 1989. However, the proposed new rule adds only one additional automatic measuring method. This additional method is also expensive, which will still prevent smaller operators who cannot afford the necessary equipment from upgrading their storage tanks.

Many of the incidents were reported as deaths from natural causes, such as cardiac arrest. Some were even attributed to the workers attempting to get high off of the fumes. Initially, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not find any safety violations where these nine workers died. But OSHA has now recognized the risks involved in manually measuring and sampling fluids in storage tanks. In February, it issued an alert warning operators and workers of these risks. Let’s pray these warnings help save lives.

If interested, you can also find out more on National Public Radio’s website at www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/30/472341181/mysterious-death-uncovers-risk-in-federal-oil-field-rules and to learn ideas for avoiding the exposure risks, please check out Inside Energy at insideenergy.org/2016/03/03/what-workers-need-to-know-about-oilfield-gas-exposure.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: An all-time-low rig count

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 28, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

An all-time-low rig count

The current national rig count hit an all-time low this month, totaling 476 rigs engaged in the exploration and production of oil and gas in the U.S. Of that number, 446 rigs were engaged in land operations, while 27 rigs were offshore and three were inland water activity. And this week it dipped even lower to a total rig count of 464.

This new low may not be a surprise to us Oklahomans, who are feeling the pain of a depressed commodity environment, massive job losses and a state budget in seeming free fall. But the decline is very dramatic, with the rig count being less than half of last year’s level and less than 25 percent of the 2008 peak exceeding 2,000 rigs in the U.S.

And the numbers are even starker for natural gas rigs, with just 89 rigs directed at natural gas, down from the 2015 count of 242, and way off the 2008 number of more than 1,600 natural gas-directed rigs. Plenty of news for a pessimist to find comfort. But what about an optimist?

Some observers suggest that tight oil production today occurs with greater success because of shale rig efficiency, and therefore production will continue to increase in spite of lower rig numbers. Others believe that the rig count is meaningless because rig counts are tied to longer-term contracts between operators and drilling companies and aren’t a week-to-week barometer of the rise or fall of oil or natural gas prices.

And still others drill down further (pun intended) for data points specific to the tight oil plays, where wells are the most productive typically, and further into the horizontally drilled wells in those plays, as the most productive specifically. Our state’s own Mississippi Lime and Granite Wash, as well as the Eagle Ford, Niobrara, Permian Basin and Bakken are watched closely for this very glimpse for production specificity. And these plays have also seen massive drops in their rig count year over year, which perhaps gives us an even clearer impression of the general direction of future production.

So whether you are inclined to watch the specific rig counts in tight oil plays in your own production areas and neighborhood, whether you follow the Saudis and OPEC for signals about oil (and gas) prices and production on the world stage, or whether you monitor domestic storage levels as the indicator of prices and activity to come, it’s probably best to contemplate it all rather than one singular data point such as American rig count.

Either way, let’s hope this new low is truly the bottom and that better prices, new jobs and brighter budget days are ahead for a producing state like ours sooner than later.

And just in case it’s not, we should probably say an Easter prayer that Oklahoma doesn’t have all its eggs in one energy basket and that wind and solar and other energies can offset the pain we feel from our old friend oil.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Wind energy essential to Oklahoma’s energy mix, economy

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 21, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Wind energy essential to Oklahoma’s energy mix, economy

Wind energy is vital to Oklahoma’s energy mix and economy. In addition to providing 17 percent of the electricity powering our state, the wind energy industry has invested billions in our communities through capital projects, jobs, taxes, landowner payments and contributions.

Recently, a small faction of renewable energy opponents has spread inaccurate, inconsistent and misleading information at the Capitol and among Oklahomans. It’s time we hold this group accountable by dispelling myths and sharing facts about wind energy and its contributions to our state. Wind energy companies have invested nearly $10 billion in Oklahoma electricity-producing facilities in the last decade-and-a-half.

Wind energy companies contribute tens of millions of dollars annually in taxes, including those that support Oklahoma schools, and pay more than $11 million each year to Oklahoma landowners through land lease payments. Economists estimate that owners of wind energy projects will pay more than $1 billion in ad valorem taxes from 2003-2043, providing significant funding for our schools and career technology centers.

As our state leaders face budget challenges, there’s been much conversation about the wind industry’s one remaining tax incentive. At the end of 2016, there will be only one tax credit remaining for companies that produce electricity using zero-emissions facilities in our state, including wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal energy. This tax credit directly benefits customers, as wind is currently Oklahomans’ cheapest form of electricity. And that cost savings in our utility bills benefits every single Oklahoman.

In light of our state’s budget issues, we should actively encourage wind developers and others to invest in Oklahoma versus taking their jobs, tax dollars and land lease payments elsewhere, like Kansas or Texas.

Gov. Mary Fallin and other pro-Oklahoma leaders have emphasized the importance of not only nurturing growth of businesses within Oklahoma, but also bringing out-of-state investment here. The wind energy industry is a textbook example of attracting dollars into the state that contribute to the success of Oklahoma businesses, such as construction, manufacturing and more. These are dollars that in the future could be invested elsewhere.

A diverse economy and energy supply is good for our state, communities, schools and citizens. And that’s especially true when some energy sectors are struggling because of global pressures like oversupply of world oil. Ask your legislator to support wind energy, a crucial part of Oklahoma’s long-term economic health and diverse energy mix.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Oil theft – making ends meet and funding terrorism

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 14, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Oil theft – making ends meeting and funding terrorism

The fact that crude oil theft is a booming business in south Texas may be surprising, considering the current low commodity price. But low oil prices are precisely the fuel that is causing this fire to spread.

Economies in oil-producing states have been crushed by the plummeting price of oil. Many people are being laid off, and they are desperately searching for ways to make ends meet. Just look at the enormous hole in Oklahoma’s state budget because of this oil and gas downturn and the lower taxes received from low production levels. These economic pains are being felt on the macro and the micro level. Unfortunately, some have even resorted to stealing crude oil to make money.

Reports in energy-producing states have begun to suggest that oil theft is occurring, many times, from ex-employees who know where oil is being stored by their previous employer. If the ex-employee has access to a tanker truck, it is easy to hook up to the storage tank and steal the product. To launder the stolen crude, some will sell it at a fraction of the market price to operators of wells that have not been producing. Others tell buyers that the stolen crude has been skimmed off of wastewater, which is itself a common occurrence in production areas.

The Energy Security Council estimates that 1 to 3 percent of all the oil produced in Texas is being stolen and sold on black markets. This could be costing Texas producers over $2 billion per year.

And Texas isn’t alone. Oil theft is also a key source of funding for ISIS, which generates more than $1 million per day for the terrorist organization through stolen oil. ISIS has been smuggling oil out of Syria and Iraq since it invaded the region in 2014, and it has raised several hundred million dollars during this time. This is how ISIS rapidly grew from a few radicals to a global extremist network.

As with the Texas oil thieves, ISIS smugglers have to launder the stolen oil. This is easily accomplished by ISIS due to its dominance in the region – not only from a military standpoint, but also over the oil and gas industry. ISIS has infiltrated many of the small refineries in Syria and Iraq, and it sells the crude oil it steals to those refineries. The terrorist group has also cut off outside sources of petroleum products. Thus, many people have no other source of fuel and are forced to buy it from the refineries that are effectively controlled by ISIS.

Low oil prices are having a broad global impact. The oil smuggling in south Texas and in Syria are just two examples of how some oil-producing regions have been affected. Authorities in both regions are trying to find ways to increase security and cut down on oil theft, but progress is still needed.

At a time when genuine market prices are already harmful to companies and the broader economy, this level of oil theft is certainly adding insult to injury.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: There are no words

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 7, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

There are no words

There are no words to appropriately and fully describe the life and loss of my friend Aubrey McClendon. And there certainly isn’t a way, when a friend grieves, to provide comfort in 500 words as this column length limits.

So I will simply say: I am a better man because I knew you, Aubrey Kerr McClendon, and because I have the high honor of calling you my friend.

As a young man I came across a quote from Robert F. Kennedy, who said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?’”

This optimistic edict propelled me to pursue serving the public around me. And in all of my life, you are the only person who I’ve witnessed truly live this ideal every day, challenging the status quo to think far beyond their own selves and for the enormous benefit of millions of strangers. The world is different because you lived.

Thank you, Katie, for sharing so much of yourselves and your lives for the benefit of the world around you both. I wish you and your family the greatest of peace, strength and healing.

Rest in peace, friend.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: 2016 candidates and their energy views

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 29, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

2016 candidates and their energy views

Once every four years something extraordinary happens this time of year and I don’t mean Leap Year’s Feb. 29. I’m referring to Oklahoma’s primary election and what’s commonly referred to as “Super Tuesday.”

According to Wikipedia: “In the United States, “Super Tuesday,” in general, refers to the Tuesday in February or March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections to select delegates to national conventions at which each party’s presidential candidates are officially nominated. And depending on your opinion of the candidates and how they perform on Tuesday, your definition of “super” may be something different. The reality for these candidates is that on Super Tuesday, more delegates can be won that day than any other single day in the primary election season.

And for us Oklahomans, as one of America’s leading energy states, it might be helpful to know where these top remaining candidates stand on issues of importance to our energy futures. This information is made available on Ballotpedia.org.

Democratic candidates

• Hillary Clinton (www.hillaryclinton.com): Advocates for wind and solar, exporting natural gas; opposes drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; and pledged to power at least half of U.S. energy needs with renewable sources by 2030.

• Bernie Sanders (www.berniesanders.com): Introduced legislation to block offshore drilling; opposes Keystone XL and drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; has pushed for federal carbon policies; and pledged to power at least half of U.S. energy needs with renewable sources by 2030.

Republican candidates

• Ted Cruz (www.tedcruz.org): Opposes all energy subsidies, including oil, gas, wind and ethanol; proposes to revoke the offshore drilling moratorium; co-sponsored legislation to block the federal government from regulating power plant carbon; has hosted hearings denouncing the existence of climate change; and claims satellite data refutes climate change.

• Marco Rubio (www.marcorubio.com): Voted to lift the ban on crude-oil exports; prefers local regulation of energy production vs. feds; has been a strong advocate against carbon policy and the Environmental Protection Agency; introduced legislation against EPA regulating American land or waterways; and has stated opposition to climate change policies that hinder business.

• Donald Trump (www.donaldjtrump.com): Has described the Marcellus Shale as “the mother lode of natural gas” and believes it can help buy time for innovation of cheaper and cleaner energies; has attacked President Obama’s denial of the Keystone XL pipeline; has described wind turbines as “an environmental and aesthetic disaster”; has claimed climate change is a “hoax”; and has claimed that global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

As candidates for public office have many diverse positions and public statements, please do some research of your own on issues that are important. It is impossible to capture all of the many nuances of the many complicated facets of energy and environmental policies, but for a state like Oklahoma it is especially important.

So whether your candidate for president of the United States is in the list above or not, please vote. That would be super.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Justice Antonin Scalia and the Clean Power Plan

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 22, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Justice Antonin Scalia and the Clean Power Plan

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death at the age of 79 leaves a vacancy on our nation’s highest court larger than one single person. In fact, it probably leaves a vacancy the size of many people, as the justice’s 29-year tenure certainly suggests.

English philosopher John Stuart Mill, a political economist, feminist and civil servant in the 19th century, probably wouldn’t have agreed much with our late Justice Scalia, but one of his quotes seems a foreshadow of the impact of just such a man:

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.”

Justice Scalia certainly was a man of firm beliefs. He has long been described as the “intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative wing. It was Scalia’s consistent belief that the U.S. Constitution provided clear lines of separation among the three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial.

This rigidity was evident in his approach to three decades of opinions, including those cases involving America’s energy and environmental issues.

Just this month, Scalia joined the majority in an unusual move to grant a judicial stay on the regulatory efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Clean Power Plan, which prior to the stay seemed on its own path for review on the merits at the D.C. Circuit Court level, then likely headed to the Supreme Court for review.

However, the SCOTUS stay halts states’ implementation of the final rule requiring states to develop plans to limit carbon emissions from the power sector in the coming years, with a deadline of September.

Now the fate of the Clean Power Plan, albeit delayed in time, is likely going to land in the hands of a different Supreme Court in the coming years. The issues being debated in the Clean Power Plan case – EPA authority, congressional actions within the Clean Air Act, states’ rights, citizens’ health and environmental protections – will be an early test for a new, possibly rebalanced SCOTUS.

In most every opportunity, Scalia strongly opposed the idea of a living Constitution, the notion that the judiciary can revisit the meaning of constitutional provisions in applying the facts of modern times. He believed instead that those laws must be viewed in their historical context, as they would have been understood at the time they were drafted.

Only time will tell if his viewpoints, beliefs and work-product legacy will receive the same frozen-in-time approach, or whether his beliefs live beyond the life of the believer.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Oklahoma’s energy tax incentives

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 15, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Oklahoma’s energy tax incentives

Oklahoma’s state budget is in trouble. And the shrinking revenue picture keeps getting worse, which has led some legislators to call for an end, or at least a moratorium, on some state tax incentives that attract investment.

We are in a difficult place for sure. So what to do when multiple good causes are competing for the same dwindling dollars?

One idea is getting early consideration and probably deserves a more cautious approach from state leaders: the idea to eliminate or freeze state tax incentives.

Here’s a quick look at those existing tax incentives, at least those related to Oklahoma energy production:

Oil and gas

• Gross production tax: The production of oil, gas, or oil and gas from wells spudded by July 1, 2015, shall be taxed at a rate of 2 percent starting with the month of first production for 36 months.

• Secondary recovery projects: For projects approved or starting by July 1, 2000, and before July 1, 2020, any incremental production attributable to the working interest owners shall be exempt from the gross production tax for a period not to exceed five years from the initial project beginning date or for a period ending upon the termination of the secondary recovery process, whichever occurs first.

• Tertiary recovery projects: For projects starting by July 1, 1993, and before July 1, 2020, any incremental production attributable to the working interest owners shall be exempt from the gross production tax from the project beginning date until project payback is achieved, not to exceed a period of 10 years.

• Inactive wells and production enhancement projects: Exempt from gross production tax for 28 months from the date production is re-established before July 1, 2020.

• Horizontally drilled wells, deep wells, ultra-deep wells, new discovery, three-dimensional seismic shoot and wells not eligible for any other exemption: Production started after July, 1, 2015, taxed at 2 percent for first 36 months.

• Economically at-risk oil or gas lease: Exemption extended from the gross production tax for production through Dec. 31, 2020, on lease during the previous calendar year. If the gross production tax rate levied was 7 percent, then the exemption shall equal six-sevenths of the gross production tax levied. If the gross production tax was 4 percent, then the exemption shall equal three-fourths of the gross production tax levied.

• Deductions of marketing costs: Producers of natural gas and casing head gas who incur marketing costs of the gas produced may deduct the costs from the gross value subject to the gross production tax.

Wind

• Five-year ad valorem exemption that phases out Dec. 31, 2016.

• Zero-emissions tax credit for electricity generated on or after Jan. 1, 2007 but prior to Jan. 1, 2021 of $0.0050 per kilowatt-hour.

Coal

• Oklahoma Coal Production Incentive Act. There shall be allowed a credit against the tax imposed … for every person primarily engaged in mining, producing or extracting coal, and holding a valid permit issued by the Oklahoma Department of Mines. … For tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2007, the credit shall be $5 for each ton of coal mined.

Gov. Mary Fallin rightly urged state lawmakers to be very cautious about reining in tax credits, as companies like Boeing may discontinue investment plans in Oklahoma if our sales strategies change mid-sale, so-to-speak. The same is certainly true for the billions of dollars deployed each year based upon the energy incentives. I hope state leaders take forward steps very carefully to not more deeply harm our ability to come out of this current downturn, as quickly as possible.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: China’s slowing economy and its impact on global energy

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 1, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

China’s slowing economy and its impact on global energy

As China “rebalances” its economy, shifting away from manufacturing and exports to consumption and services, its energy demand continues to plummet.

In a recent report, the International Monetary Fund indicates that several factors are contributing to the sharp decline in growth and demand in China, including: the aging workforce and higher life expectancy, the slowing of technological advancements, and declining productivity. Others cite the declining workforce participation and tax base as young, working-age individuals pursue higher education instead of entering labor markets, as well as a shrinking middle class as the wage gap continues to expand.

Part of the problem is China’s economic structure: It is driven by exports, as opposed to being dependent on domestic consumption. This becomes a problem when advanced economies, such as the United States, experience economic downturns that curb growth and demand. Some economists predict slow U.S. growth over the next several decades due to the aging population, increased student debt, and increased income inequality. This will cause U.S. imports to decline, which will in turn negatively impact China’s export-centric economy.

Another major factor causing reduced demand in China – especially its demand for fossil fuels – is China’s shift in energy policy. China is taking action to combat climate change. President Xi Jinping has announced that China will implement a nationwide cap and trade system in 2017.

China is a global leader in wind power, adding 19.8 gigawatts of wind turbines to its grid in 2014 alone, and it added more solar panels than any other country that same year. The expansion of renewables in China has led to increased competition for fossil fuels, which has contributed to the sharp decline in demand for conventional energy.

Both China’s change in economic policy and its clean energy strategy have affected global energy markets and caused coal-boom towns, such as Yulin, to turn into so-called “ghost cities.”

China’s shift away from coal to gas and renewables has contributed to the sharp drop in coal prices in recent years. Thermal coal prices have fallen about 60 percent from a 2011 peak, and Brent oil prices have fallen approximately 75 percent over the same time frame.

The demand for oil in China has dropped dramatically, partially due to its improved consumption efficiency. A 2015 study showed that “oil demand (in China) grew about 0.69 percent for every 1 percent of GDP growth in 2014, which is significantly lower oil intensity than the 0.94 percent ratio that prevailed ten years ago.”

China’s demand for natural gas has also slowed down, which has been caused, in part, by government-regulated pricing. As global oil prices continue to drop, both oil and coal have become cheaper alternatives to natural gas. While China’s natural gas consumption had been increasing at rates in the double digits since 2000, its increase in gas consumption was only about 3 percent in 2015. This data shows that even clean technologies like natural gas are not immune to the overall drop in energy demand in China.

One positive result from China’s shift to clean technologies is that it is providing significant opportunities for private investment and innovation. For example, Apple Inc. announced that it will invest millions of dollars to build over 200 megawatts of solar capacity in China. Many diplomats and conservationists, such as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, believe that China is in a unique position to lead the world in sustainable development. They see the U.S. playing a key role in advancing technology to meet China’s growing – albeit slower than expected – energy demand. There is still American opportunity in a slowing global economy.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Director Jim Roth quoted in Journal Record

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group.

Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group, Jim Roth, was used as a source in a Journal Record article by Sarah Terry-Cobo published on Sept. 8, 2015. Read the entire story here.

The article addressed regulations on saltwater spills resulting from oil well work.

Jim was quoted as follows:

Jim Roth, a former member of Oklahoma Corporation Commission and energy and environmental attorney, wrote in a statement to The Journal Record that regulators can be responsible and effective when the punishment deters the harm.

“Accidents will happen in any human activity, but the cop on the beat must patrol and must act authoritatively against bad operators to protect the general public and even good operators,” Roth wrote.