Pollution and a beetle get attention of OKC council members

The city council in Oklahoma City will handle at least two environmental issues in its Tuesday meeting. One concerns pollution at the MAPS 3 convention center construction site while the other is about the American Burying Beetle.

One focuses on environmental pollution discovered in the construction of a parking garage as part of the city’s $288 million convention center project. Construction is underway on SW 3rd street on the north and SW 4th street on south and between South Broadway Avenue and South Shields Avenue.

The garage is under construction at the site of a former OGE building where the city says “environmental testing revealed the presence of environmental pollution in the ground water underlying the property at levels the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality recognizes as requiring remedial action.”

The city council is asked to approve a cost-sharing agreement by its Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust with OGE to resolve the issue. A request for a Brownfields proposal to the DEQ for a risk-based remediation will be made if the council approves the issue. Estimated cost could be $509,400.

The city has a larger funding request to handle regarding a separate environmental issue—one totaling more than $724,000 to protect the American Burying Beetle found to be in the path of the city’s 100-mile Atoka Pipeline which carries water to the city’s Lake Stanley Draper.

Because the American Burying Beetle is considered to be endangered and located in the path of the line as well as a second proposed pipeline, the city will have to spend $724,250 to buy conservation credits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The City’s Water Utilities Trust is in the final phase of the permitting process with the Fish and Wildlife Service for the second Atoka Pipeline. The federal permitting process requires that the city  “mitigate” for change impacts in the area where the beetle survives and the mitigation includes “purchasing mitigation credits” at the “going rate” from a USFWS approved mitigation bank.

It means the city has to spend money to acquire other private property where the beetle might have a chance to survive. The beetle has been the source of long-time controversy with even Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and the state’s oil and gas industry attempting to get it delisted from the endangered list in 2015.

The beetle remains on the list to this day but during an early-February hearing by the U.S. Senate Energy and Public Works Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe was still trying to get the insect delisted. He questioned Rob Wallace, Assistance Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the U.S. Department of Interior.


“Wallace: Senator, as to your first question about the American Burying Beetle. We are working on down listing from endangered to threatened with a tailored 4(d) rule. Which provides more flexibilities on how to manage that to the states. We feel like we’re working cooperatively with organizations that are impacted by that.

Inhofe: Does the date still look good in terms of June 2020?

Wallace: We’re still on track. Yes sir.”

(Click here to view the testimony.)