Friday, July 22, 2011

EPAs Pending Ozone Decision Could Cause 7 Million Job Losses by 2020

Within days, the Obama EPA is expected to announce their decision to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.

In so doing, EPA is essentially changing the definition of clean air.  The practical effect is that businesses and states will have to drastically curtail their development plans in order to meet the new standards.  In some cases, in areas that cannot meet the requirements, development will grind to a halt.

This isn't mere hyperbole: EPA estimates that this rule could cost as much as $90 billion annually, making it the most expensive regulation ever proposed.

Not only will the rule break records for costs - and this will significantly raise the price of energy for all Americans - by EPA's own projections, it could put 650 additional counties into the category of "non-attainment," which is the equivalent of posting a "closed for business" sign on communities.  Affected counties will suffer from severe EPA-imposed restrictions on job creation and business expansion, including large numbers of plant closures.   The rule has been projected to result in as many as 7 million lost jobs by 2020, with an estimated decline in GDP of close to 4 percent. 

With at least fifteen counties in Oklahoma facing this threat - Adair, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Cleveland, Creek, Dewey, Kay, Mayes, McClain, Oklahoma, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Sequoyah, and Tulsa - the state could lose 177,000 jobs by 2020.  Oklahoma's two largest newspapers have weighed in with editorials expressing their concerns about the impacts of the proposed rule.

There is no doubt that this rule's devastating consequences for our economy have caused the final promulgation of the ozone reconsideration to be delayed not once, but twice over the past two years by the Obama Administration.

Getting the Facts Straight

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said that the Agency is legally bound to tighten ozone standards, on the grounds that the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) created by the Clean Air Act (CAA) supports it.

But this is not case: this proposal comes on the heels of the revised 2008 ozone standard, which was lowered significantly from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb.  The CAA only requires a NAAQS revision "at least" every five years, so EPA is under no obligation currently to revise the standard. Furthermore, the CAA is very clear that EPA is not bound by CASAC's recommendations.

However, the CAA does require that EPA review the best available science every five years.  Yet, EPA's proposal is based on the same scientific and technical record used in the 2008 ozone review, and the Agency has even conceded that it is not relying on any new ozone studies published since the science assessment supporting the 2008 review was completed in 2006.  This means that EPA is using scientific studies that are at least five years old, clearly not relying on the "latest scientific knowledge," which the CAA requires. Not only does EPA have no compelling science to justify tightening the ozone NAAQS, the Agency has repeatedly discounted or ignored studies reporting no significant association between current levels of ozone and asthma exacerbation.  EPA has also at times, discounted multiple no-effect studies to rely instead on single studies showing an effect.

The Bottom Line

EPA's rulemaking process paints a picture of an Agency bent on creating needless economic pain, destroying jobs and stunting economic growth at a time when our nation is working to recover from a jobless recession.  And ozone is just the beginning: new standards for industrial boilers, Portland Cement plants, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the recently released Transport rule are all part of the Obama EPA's regulatory "train wreck" that will wreak havoc on our economy. Instead of going through with this rule, EPA should immediately recognize that it significantly harms the very people EPA so vehemently claims to protect, especially the poor and elderly, who can little afford higher energy costs, and those whose jobs and livelihoods will be unnecessarily eliminated. 

Inhofe Op Ed: Federal interference in energy development regulation a bad idea (The Hill)

The Hill Op Ed

Federal interference in energy development regulation a bad idea

By Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

July 19, 2011

Link to Op Ed 

The United States reached an extraordinary milestone in 2009: A flood of domestic natural gas production propelled America past Russia to become the world's largest producer of natural gas. But considering the Obama administration's aggressive anti-fossil-fuel agenda, how could this possibly have occurred?

Two key reasons stand out: First, American ingenuity combined cutting-edge, horizontal drilling technologies with advancements in hydraulic fracturing to allow producers to tap America's truly massive natural gas shale deposits. But more importantly, these immense shale deposits are predominantly located in areas of the country where the states - not the federal government - primarily regulate oil and gas development. In such states as Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and North Dakota, a virtual boom in natural gas and oil development is transforming America's energy outlook, all thanks to the absence of federal red tape.

But unfortunately, this lack of federal control has not gone unnoticed by the Obama administration and the environmental lobby. Looking to reverse America's newfound status as the world's natural gas powerhouse, many on the left now are pressing a sympathetic Obama administration to flex its regulatory muscles and expand its reach over hydraulic fracturing, a practice that for decades has been effectively and efficiently regulated by states.

Lately, President Obama has been touting the virtues of natural gas - but don't be fooled: Without question, his administration is working actively to shut down fossil-fuel development, and natural gas is no exception. Just take a look at his "green team," which has included such outspoken fossil-fuel opponents as Carol Browner and Van Jones. In a speech in March at Georgetown, Obama said he would be putting Energy Secretary Steven Chu in charge of hydraulic fracturing policy. This is the same secretary who, speaking a year ago at Georgetown, said "we are going to have some regulation on that."

Now the president has chosen Rebecca Wodder, a staunch critic of hydraulic fracturing, to be the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks for the Department of the Interior. Ms. Wodder recently said hydraulic fracturing "has a nasty track record of creating a toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater and streams, threatening public health and wildlife."

But this is clearly not the case. Since the first use of hydraulic fracturing - in 1949 in my home state of Oklahoma - producers have completed more than 1.5 million fracturing jobs without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these fracked formations.

Not only is hydraulic fracturing thoroughly regulated by states, the practice has allowed for jobs and dollars to stay on American soil and in American pockets. In fact, as was recently reported in The Oklahoman, my state's 2.5 percent growth in personal income ranked fifth in the nation in the first quarter of 2011. Instead of working to expand federal reach, the president should look to the states, which showcase that economic growth and job creation can coexist with effective environmental protection.

Even Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), a Democrat, said in April at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing that we could learn from such states as Colorado and Oklahoma that "have taken aggressive action to protect the public health of their citizens."

Calls for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing are not based on any credible threat to drinking water. This is all part of Obama's war on affordable energy, an effort to regulate fossil fuels out of existence. Without hydraulic fracturing, not one cubic foot of shale gas would be commercially producible. If the president is successful, he will be responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and for the elimination of shale gas as a source of abundant, secure, reliable and affordable energy.

Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Tulsa World: Ridley says cut could delay I-44 work

Tulsa World 

Ridley says cut could delay I-44 work

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

July 22, 2011

Link to Article 

Link to Press Release: Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe Release Bipartisan Transportation Reauthorization Bill Outline

WASHINGTON - Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley warned Thursday that a major cut in federal road funds could delay completion of a huge Interstate 44 project in Tulsa and result in additional traffic deaths.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Ridley cited that section of road's "high fatality" rate, terming it some of the worst in Oklahoma's interstate system.

A contract for that section of I-44 is expected to be up for bid a year from now as the last part of a $300 million-plus project that runs from Riverside Drive to Yale Avenue.

"That is the oldest section of interstate that we have in our system," Ridley said.

"In fact, it was in place before the interstate system was established."

Ridley's dramatic testimony came in response to a question from U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a major player in efforts to come up with a measure to at least maintain current levels of road funding.

Even though the Oklahoma Republican and others have agreed to scale back those efforts to a two-year bill, a $12 billion hole remains.

A separate effort in the House, which could face even more severe challenges, is helping to fuel concerns that the nation's road program could be facing spending cuts of about a third.

"Certainly the impact would be devastating to our eight-year construction work plan," Ridley said.

"The federal funds make up 60 percent of our eight-year construction work program."

Ridley said such a reduction would translate into a loss of up to $800 million.

All of the projects in that program would be at risk, he said.

The cuts could also affect several projects on the Inner Dispersal Loop and more on I-44.

After the hearing, which was designed to boost support for the nation's highway program and help prevent a major loss of funding, Ridley said he remained optimistic that Congress would act.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is leading efforts to plug the $12 billion hole in the Senate effort.

Baucus expressed confidence in the effort to avoid the type of severe cuts called for by the House approach.

Inhofe, who has been working with his fellow Republicans, expressed support for the approach taken so far by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate panel.

In his prepared remarks, however, he again warned that pushing ahead with a Senate bill before an adequate source of funding can be found could cost Republican support and possibly even kill the entire effort.

Current law authorizing the nation's highway program expires at the end of September.

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Hearing on Ken Kopocis and Rebecca Wodder Nominations

At a Full Committee hearing entitled, "Nomination of Ken Kopocis to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water for the Environmental Protection Agency and Rebecca Wodder to be Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior" on Tuesday, Senator Inhofe gave the following statement:  

We are here today to consider two nominations: Ken Kopocis to be Associate Administrator of the Office of Water as well as Rebecca Wodder to be Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks - two key positions that will have a significant impact on regulatory policy.

First and foremost in my mind is certainly the upcoming announcement by the EPA to tighten the ozone standard, which would ruin Oklahoma's and the broader American economy.  The decision will be announced next week and I will be tracking it very closely.

Turning our attention back to the nominees, I am pleased to see Mr. Kopocis, a former EPW Committee staffer. We have worked together collegially on a number of important bills, and I know that he is someone with whom I can work.

However, the Obama-EPA's water policies represent an aggressive, heavy handed, top down approach to regulation. Today, EPA is proposing to change completely the rights and responsibilities of individuals under the Clean Water Act through their new draft guidance. Just as the Obama-EPA is attempting to implement a backdoor cap-and-trade through regulation, they are using this water guidance document to implement the Clean Water Restoration Act. Remember, this bill was resoundingly rejected last Congress when Democrats held an overwhelming majority.  It is completely inappropriate to attempt to change people's rights and responsibilities under a law through a guidance document.  I strongly oppose EPA's actions here and sincerely hope that they listen to the 40 other members who joined me in requesting they abandon any additional actions on this document.

I do have serious concerns about Ms. Wodder's nomination, which is a continuation of the Obama Administration's desire to appoint left-wing extremists to senior-level positions. She is the latest in the line of Obama officials that include Carol Browner, Van Jones, and Commerce nominee John Bryson. As CEO of American Rivers, which works actively to shut down energy production in the United States, she was a staunch supporter of the Clean Water Restoration Act.  She also aggressively promoted the federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing - a practice that is efficiently and effectively regulated by states and is crucial to our economic recovery and energy security.

The selection of Ms. Wodder is a clear departure from her predecessor, Tom Strickland, who in testimony before the EPW Committee said that we should actively and aggressively develop our energy resources.  Unfortunately, Ms. Wodder's support for regulatory advancement suggests that she would do the opposite, which exposes the reality of President Obama's agenda of increasing energy prices and destroying jobs.

Today, I need your assurance that you will bring a balanced approach to the position for which you are nominated.  In addition, I expect you to abide by the terms of an agreement that I worked out with Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe to enable his nomination to move forward. Mr. Ashe clarified that climate change is not the overarching consideration driving the Service's day-to-day operations. He went on to state that FWS is not responsible for the regulation of greenhouse gases, nor is it the Service's role to address these causative factors through any of its statutory or regulatory authorities. Lastly, he agreed to attend multiple stakeholder meetings in Oklahoma to discuss the impact of listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Oklahomans are rightfully concerned about this likely action as it will shut down hundreds of millions of dollars of wind development and harm private property values.

I look forward to hearing from both nominees and having the opportunity to discuss many of the concerns I have expressed about the direction of the Obama-EPA as it relates to ensuring we are taking the right approach to balancing economic and environmental needs.  

In the News...Tulsa World: Coal killers

Tulsa World Editorial 

Coal killers

Feds should 'mine' their own business

July 16, 2011

Link to Editorial 

Link to Press Release: OK Delegation Demands Obama Administration Stop Regulatory Regime That Will Shut Down State's Coal Industry  

Oklahoma's congressional delegation has written the head of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, claiming that the federal agency is trying to kill the state's coal mining industry. The delegation's fears appear to be valid.

The letter quotes from a leaked draft of an environmental impact statement on a proposed stream-protection rule: "The reasonable, foreseeable development scenario for coal production in the United States the (preferred option) is for no new mining activity in (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma)... ."

The congressmen also charge that the federal agency is attempting to override Oklahoma's own enforcement program, which it is not legally empowered to do.

Coal mining already is on the wane in Oklahoma, and it doesn't need a negative push from the feds.

According to an Oklahoma Department of Mines website, coal production in the state declined from its peak of 5.73 million tons in 1981 to 979,000 tons last year. Historically, Oklahoma coal, which is hot-burning and high in sulphur, was shipped to out-of-state electric plants. Recently, however, most of it is burned in cement and lime kilns within the state.

Coal was produced in 2010 by four companies at nine sites in LeFlore, Rogers, Haskell, Craig, Nowata and Okmulgee counties. More than half came from two mines in LeFlore County.

Even though the industry is on the decline here, killing it would cost eastern Oklahoma about 260 high-wage jobs.

Those jobs are in rural counties that can ill-afford to lose them. It also would force some local industries to make other, possibly more expensive, fuel arrangements.

We're with the congressional delegation: The federal regulator ought to back off its drastic and costly position.

Inhofe Welcomes Colleagues Fight Against EPAs Job-Killing Agenda

After a bipartisan group of six senators led by Susan Collins formally introduced legislation that would delay the EPA rule to curb air toxics from boilers and incinerators, commonly known as "Boiler MACT," Senator Inhofe said,  

"I am pleased that a number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have recognized the devastating economic effects of the Obama EPA's Boiler MACT rule and have come forward with a bipartisan solution. Boiler MACT alone could put nearly 800,000 jobs at risk.   That's becuase these standards are so stringent that the best performing sources cannot even meet them.  EPA clearly needs to go back to the drawing board.

"While there is no question the Obama EPA needs to be reined in, I do have concerns about certain elements in the bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these issues.  I hope that we can reach a compromise that will put us on a clear path to reducing emissions while protecting Americans from losing their jobs and businesses from unachievable mandates."

In the News...National Journal: Congress May Join Fight Over EPA Smog Rules

National Journal  

Congress May Join Fight Over EPA Smog Rules

by Amy Harder

July 19, 2011 | 6:50 p.m.

Link to Article

The Obama administration's plan to announce new antismog rules by month's end could face growing opposition from Republicans -- and some Democrats -- in Congress.

Industry and lobbyists are fighting the new Environmental Protection Agency ground-level ozone standards, which they claim will hurt the economy. Opponents of the rules say that forcing state regulatory agencies to draft plans to cut ozone levels will in turn require costly compliance from nearly all corners of the industrial and business sectors.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., circulated a memo at the Republican lunch calling on members of Congress to object to the new standards, which the EPA plans to announce by July 29. The standards will set a lower acceptable level of ozone, which will affect more parts of the country than the current standards.

The agency is revamping antismog rules drafted during the George W. Bush administration because the scientific record compels stricter standards to stand up in court, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., who chairs the Senate subcommittee on air pollution.

Reissuing the smog standards now is out of cycle with EPA's regular five-year review process, which will begin again in 2013.

A draft letter obtained by National Journal and being circulated by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., urges EPA to delay issuing new standards until 2013.

"In light of EPA's intention to issue the final reconsideration rule by the end of July, the undersigned members of the United States Senate respectfully request that EPA continue its ongoing statutory review of new science, due in 2013, and not finalize the reconsideration at this time," the letter states.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., will also be meeting with executives from major industry and business associations on Friday, according to Khary Cauthen, director of government affairs for the American Petroleum Institute. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Chemistry Council also are expected to attend.

"We are very concerned about the decision to revisit the ozone standard outside the normal timeline, and are examining a number of options to protect jobs and avert the economic disaster the EPA's actions threaten to create," said an aide for Republicans on the Energy Committee, who confirmed the Friday meeting.

The new standards have already been delayed three times and are huge priority for environmental and public-health experts, who have urged EPA to stick to its July 29 deadline, citing a public-health risk in some locations nationwide from ground-level ozone.

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Full Committee hearing on Legislative Issues for Transportation Reauthorization

Senator Inhofe gave the following statement Thursday at a Full Committee hearing entitled, "Legislative Issues for Transportation Reauthorization":

I'd like to start by commending Chairman Boxer.  With her leadership and dedication, and the great work of Senators Baucus and Vitter, we have put together a really good highway bill.  Anytime you are working on a bill this important, it is hard to reach a bipartisan compromise, and this is especially true in our current political environment.  What we have achieved here is important for the nation.

It is so appropriate to have Secretary Ridley here with us today.  I've often said that he is the best DOT Secretary in the nation.  There is no person whose judgment I value more on these issues.  I speak with him many times each month and I could not have negotiated this bill without him.

We must acknowledge that our proposal to fund the highway program at current levels would result in a $12 billion shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.  Before we proceed to mark up, I must insist that the Finance Committee has identified a bipartisan way of filling this hole.  It is unwise to push an unfunded proposal to spend over $100 billion at the same time the nation is singularly focused on cutting trillions of dollars in spending.  If we proceed before we have identified funding, we will lose Republican support and kill the bill for this Congress, doing irreparable harm in the process.

We are very fortunate to have the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, working so closely with us toward a bipartisan solution.  I support his efforts and have been working behind the scenes to help him with Republicans.

As is the case with all compromises, nobody gets everything they want.  Most notably, this bill does not go as far as I would like on project delivery and it doesn't have the so-called "livability" mandates the other side would have liked.  What we do have, is a bill that can pass the Senate.

This bill includes many of the essential policy reforms that my colleagues and stakeholders have recommended.  It consolidates the number of programs in SAFETEA from 87 to under 30.  It gives states more flexibility, while focusing federal dollars on key outcomes.  These changes will ensure that Americans get the most for their gas tax dollars.  We have also made good progress expediting project delivery, including expanding categorical exclusions and imposing meaningful deadlines on federal resource agencies.  Finally, the bill will include no earmarks or programs that only benefit a limited number of states.

I want to make it very clear that putting this off is not an option.  We need to do a highway bill.  A short term extension does not give states needed certainty and will either mean a cut of at least 34% in federal highway funding or a bailout of the Trust Fund in fiscal year 2013.  Of equal importance, an extension will not include any of the important policy reforms in our bill.

I'd like to take a moment to point out to my colleagues that I have been calling for massive cuts to government spending for years now.  I introduced the first bill to lower spending to 2008 levels.  This call has been echoed by most proposals to rein in our out of control spending since then.  But it is important to note that taking the highway program down to $27 billion would mean going below 2000 funding levels-a point far beyond what is being talked about for other, less critical programs.

This 34% cut would mean $200 million less each year for my state of Oklahoma than they currently receive.  A recent editorial in the Oklahoman entitled "Cuts in highway funds would really hurt Oklahoma" discussed possible delays in critical projects if we go with the House number.  This is going to be repeated in every state in the nation.  The impact of that on jobs and the economy will be staggering. 

In the News...Politico Pro: Republicans object to DOI nominees past views on fracking, meat

Politico Pro 

Republicans object to DOI nominee's past views on fracking, meat

By Robin Bravender

July 19, 2011

Link to Article

The confirmation of President Barack Obama's pick for a top Interior Department post may turn on her diet and her views on fracking.

Republican senators on Tuesday grilled Rebecca Wodder - Obama's nominee for assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks - over a 2007 interview in which she criticized hydraulic fracturing's "nasty track record" and spoke against eating beef.

During a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked Wodder whether she stands by her comments to E magazine that she objected to factory farms.

"I eat almost no beef or pork because of the amount of resources consumed in producing food via cattle or pigs, and because I object to factory farms," Wodder said at the time, when she was president of American Rivers.

Wodder told the Senate panel that her dietary preferences were personal, but that the objection to factory farms was a comment on behalf of American Rivers.

Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) criticized Wodder's stance on hydraulic fracturing after she wrote in June 2010 in The Huffington Post that "fracking has a nasty track record of creating a toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater and streams, threatening public health and wildlife."

Wodder again said she made her comments as the head of the rivers organization, and said she recognizes that the Interior post is an "entirely different job." She said natural gas is an important part of U.S. energy security, but that it's important to proceed carefully to avoid "unintended consequences."

Also, she told Inhofe, "This is in the jurisdiction of the [Bureau of Land Management] and would not be in my purview should I be confirmed."

Committee Democrats defended Wodder, and Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) apologized for some of the questions Wodder was asked. "I think they were confusing your personal views with your role that you had," Boxer said.

But Republican senators weren't convinced, and both Inhofe and Barrasso said they may block Wodder's nomination if she is cleared by the committee.

In the News...Edmond Sun: Grove Valley receives national award

Senator Inhofe congratulates the Deer Creek Valley Elementary School for being selected as the 2011 Take Pride in America National Award winner for outstanding school program in the nation, as reported yesterday in the Edmund Sun.  On April 27, 2010, he was pleased to welcome Grove Valley Elementary School Principal, Debbie Straughn, to testify about her outdoor classroom before the EPW committee.  The outdoor classroom was created utilizing the Partners Program - a program that incentivizes partnerships between private landowners and the federal government to restore habitats.  In her testimony Straughn said, "The outdoor classroom provides an ideal structured leaning for the children and promotes ideal wildlife habitat... The outdoor habitat gave children an interactive learning environment." 

Senator Inhofe and Grove Valley Principal Debbie Straughn

Link to Video: Inhofe Welcomes Grove Valley Principal Debbie Straughn Before EPW Committee

Edmond Sun

Grove Valley receives national award

By Patty Miller 

July 20, 2011

Link to Article 

EDMOND - Deer Creek Grove Valley Elementary School has been selected as the 2011 Take Pride in America National Award winner for the outstanding school program in the nation.

Debbie Straughn, Grove Valley's principal, was in Washington, D.C., Monday to represent the school as both she and the school were honored at the Take Pride in America National Awards Ceremony and Reception held in their honor at The White House.

"Our panel of judges was impressed by the hard work and dedication you have demonstrated with your volunteer service," said Lisa Young with the U.S. Department of the Interior. "We are privileged to honor such accomplishments ... and to recognize your outstanding commitment to public lands. " 

Grove Valley, in partnership with Tinker Air Force Base, has built a new outdoor classroom that boasts federally protected wetlands.

An Air Force Military Construction Project required removal of a small wetlands and relocation away from the Air Base where bird strike concerns would not be an issue. It also required the replacement of the wetlands to help meet national goals of "no-net loss of wetlands."

"Grove Valley Elementary is pleased to be the off-base partner and location for this wetlands," Straughn said.

The cost of the $55,000 wetlands and outdoor classroom was paid for by a government grant. Construction began in January with final contouring and establishment of native vegetation being completed in the spring.

"A culminating task for creation of the wetlands is the planting of native aquatic plants along the shoreline and in the shallow zones of the wetlands," Straughn said. "To accomplish this Tinker biologists and partners formulated a planting plan and a celebration event called Marsh Madness."

Grove Valley Elementary students provided the labor and experienced their own creation of nature at the Outdoor Classroom and Wetlands Dedication Ceremony April 22, which was also Earth Day. Military and government dignitaries were on hand for the event.

According to a press release issued by the school, Tinker Air Force Base officials said, "The celebration involving multiple government and public agencies as well as local schools and non-governmental agencies demonstrates how partnering activities can benefit both the military and the communities in which they reside. In times of economic crunch, these types of initiatives are more important than ever."

More than 600 volunteers and 2,300 volunteer hours were involved in completing the project including planting 1,500 water plants. Trails, bridges, spillways and more than 20 species of vegetation were planted around the body of water that now is stocked with fish. In the fall the students will plant trees.

Straughn was concerned that a large, old tree in the wetlands area be saved, and with the help of Mark Bays, with Oklahoma Forestry Services, the tree was saved.

 In addition to Tinker Air Force Base, the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, Land Legacy, Oklahoma County Conservation Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Forestry Services worked with Straughn to complete the project of moving the wetlands to a 3-acre piece of land on school property.

"The celebration involving multiple government and public agencies as well as local schools and non-governmental agencies demonstrates how partnering activities can benefit both the military and the communities in which they reside," Straughn said.

"In times of economic ‘crunch' these types of initiatives are more important than ever," she said. "This project also demonstrates the ‘teamwork' philosophy and ‘stretch metrics' of Tinker Leadership."

At the request of Sen. Jim Inhofe, Straughn testified before Congress about this project in the spring of 2010. Students throughout Grove Valley watched in their classrooms via Smart boards and were able to Skype with their principal afterwards.