- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma editorials:

The Oklahoman, Dec. 24, 2015

Chickasaw offer breathes new life into OKC museum project

What for the longest time seemed to be a project that wouldn’t be completed - the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City - suddenly has new life and very real prospects for success. For this we can thank the Chickasaw Nation.

On Tuesday, the tribe offered to partner with Oklahoma City to complete the center, which sits half-finished along the south banks of the Oklahoma River. Work stopped a few years ago when money on the state project ran out, and since then all proposals to get to the finish line have foundered.

The most recent of those had come this spring when the Legislature approved a bill turning the AICCM over to Oklahoma City. But the strings attached made it highly unattractive to city officials, and concerns about the costs of running a museum and the challenges of redeveloping the land only added to the angst.

The Chickasaw Nation’s business arm has enjoyed great success with its entertainment and tourism ventures, which have an annual economic impact of $2.4 billion. The tribe’s commerce secretary, Bill Lance, said the tribe could leverage that experience to make the AICCM a reality.

Mayor Mick Cornett noted that the Chickasaws already run their own museum, the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, and they’re willing to assume some risk for development of the land around the AICCM site. The latter will take considerable work, as numerous utility and oil lines run through the property, and access to the site is a challenge.

Yet the tribe has significant means at its disposal, and a real willingness to turn the AICCM into the attraction it was intended to be when the idea for the center was conceived two decades ago. That willingness is evident in the tribe’s proposal, which includes:

- An offer to cover operating losses of up to $2 million per year for seven years. Losses in that range are likely, according to consultants hired by the city.

- An offer to underwrite a portion of the cost of completing the museum in excess of $65 million. That figure equals the amount pledged and the $25 million promised by the Legislature in its bill. Completion could cost as much as $95 million, according to one estimate by the consultants.

The tribe also asked that the city assure its cooperation for the tribe to pursue commercial development on the site. A comment by Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher indicates officials’ openness to that request. “I look forward to working with y’all,” he said.

There are still many details to be worked out and discussions to be had. Those will continue for the next month or so. However, this proposal was well received by the governor and legislative leaders, who have wrestled with this for years. No one welcomed the prospect of another dead end for the project, which has received about $90 million in state money. Yet that’s where it was headed before the Chickasaw Nation stepped in.

This offers the best - and likely the last - chance to make the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum a reality and, most importantly, make it a success. Oklahomans should keep fingers crossed that it comes to pass.


Tulsa World, Dec. 29, 2015

FDA made right decision on blood donation

The Food and Drug Administration has partially altered a 32-year ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

Although controversial in some quarters, the step is measured and appropriate.

In 1983, during the peak of the AIDS scare, the FDA placed a lifetime ban for gay and bisexual men giving blood, fearing that AIDS-infected blood could get into the supply and protecting people receiving blood transfusions. The new policy will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year.

Science has come a long way in 32 years. “We’ve taken great care to ensure the revised policy continues to protect our blood supply,” said Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

People on both sides of the issue are disappointed.

Some say the policy unfairly and unnecessarily singles out sexually active gay and bisexual men and doesn’t take into account those who use condoms.

Others worry that the new rules will increase the potential for HIV-infected blood to get into the blood donation system. The screening process relies on a series of questions to donors, including questions about sex, with men or women, cancer, drug use, travel to foreign countries and a list of other activities that could bar them from donating. That system is backed up by testing for the HIV virus, but there is a roughly 10-day window between initial infection and when the virus can be detected by current testing techniques.

We think blood donation rules should be driven by science, not politics or prejudice. The goal must be to keep the blood supply adequate and safe.

If evidence leads the FDA to take this step with confidence, then good. It’ll bring in more blood, and the medical system can always use it.


Enid News & Eagle, Dec. 21, 2015

We’re alarmed by SandRidge’s refusal to shut down disposal wells

In an alarming move, SandRidge Energy is refusing to shut down wastewater disposal wells associated with oil and gas production in Northwest Oklahoma.

That’s forcing the regulatory Oklahoma Corporation Commission to prepare court action against SandRidge regarding several injection wells the company has not shut down per OCC’s request.

In November, OCC spokesman Matt Skinner said Oklahoma was the No. 1 earthquake area in the world.

The scientific consensus is clear that wastewater injection is pinpointed as a trigger for the increased seismicity in our state.

According to Oklahoma law, OCC has exclusive jurisdiction, power and authority to make and enforce rules and orders, governing and regulating items “within its state as are reasonable and necessary for the purpose of preventing the pollution of the surface and subsurface waters in the state.”

OCC’s jurisdiction and authority pertains to Class II wells, injection wells.

“The companies have always been told that if they did not comply, court action would follow to get compliance,” Skinner said in a written statement. “The Oil and Gas Division cannot mandate a change in operations without due process, which includes court if the operator decides not to comply.”

The issues involve wells listed in a Dec. 3 bulletin in which OCC issued an advisory in response to a swarm of earthquakes in the Medford, Cherokee and Byron areas.

In November, The Journal Record reported in that “the driller’s precarious financial position, combined with the risk it faces from temblor swarms near its wastewater injection wells, could cause (SandRidge) to become insolvent if regulators shut down its disposal wells.”

Without commenting specifically on SandRidge, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association spokesman Cody Bannister said the industry is cooperating well with state regulators on the issue of earthquakes thus far.

We’d like to see that volunteer cooperation continue to work. We hope SandRidge’s refusal doesn’t encourage more energy companies to go down this slippery slope.

We understand SandRidge, which invested heavily in drilling in Northwest Oklahoma, is in a precarious financial condition in this current energy slump. But corporate financial conditions do not justify putting area property in seismic jeopardy.

In a written statement, SandRidge Director of Communications David Kimmel said “science must be our guide as we work together to address” this complex issue.

But SandRidge has not offered any scientific evidence to justify its stance.

Resources are tight for all the players involved, but stalling this situation in the courts to force OCC’s hand is not the best strategy.

Consider the potential liability of a destructive earthquake in the future.

And if that happened and a bad quake hit, the Legislature would probably overreact with a knee-jerk response based on politics instead of science.

We prefer honoring the OCC’s oversight instead of kicking this to the courts.

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