federal aid
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt discusses his hopes for the 2021 legislative session in his office Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (Michael Duncan)

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma was granted emergency federal aid to help the state recover from the historic winter storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday.

The announcement came after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt spent two days in Washington requesting aid. President Joe Biden approved Oklahoma’s major disaster declaration, which will make federal funding available for affected citizens in Canadian, Carter, Cherokee, Comanche, Cotton, Hughes, Jefferson, Le Flore, McIntosh, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Stephens, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.

“This has been an important trip because I wanted to let our federal delegation know exactly what was happening after the historic weather events,” Stitt said. “We’re worried for Oklahomans’ sake that some of the electricity bills are going to skyrocket, and so we’re trying to figure out, is there a federal solution to that?”

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

Biden declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma on Feb. 18.

Stitt said he also spoke with the delegation to talk about the state’s coronavirus response and the effects of the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision.

In his meetings, Stitt said he’s been highlighting Oklahoma’s “All of the Above” energy policy, which he said helped the state avoid the long-lasting rolling blackouts that plagued Texas. 

“One of the things that we’re bringing awareness to in Oklahoma is that we have an All of the Above energy policy in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “That proved very, very well in the last storm because our friends of the South had some rolling blackouts for days and days at a time.”

This policy means Oklahoma gets its energy from many sources, including oil, natural gas, wind, solar and coal. With this approach, Oklahoma was able to vary consumption between energy sources, depending on weather conditions. 

Discussion of McGirt impact and vaccination

In addition to seeking federal aid, Stitt met with the Oklahoma delegation to discuss ways to address the McGirt decision, which affects law enforcement jurisdiction on Native American land in eastern Oklahoma under the Major Crimes Act and presents potential civil law issues as well.

“We’re up here also bringing awareness to the McGirt ruling, which is something that we think Oklahomans need to be aware of, and our federal delegation is working on that,” Stitt said. “We’re hearing from district attorneys, we’re hearing from police departments all across eastern Oklahoma, that crimes are not being prosecuted, they’re being delayed (as a result of the ruling).”

Stitt also mentioned that he will continue to encourage the Oklahoma delegation to secure as many COVID-19 vaccines as possible for the state.

“We’re doing a better job than almost any other state on how quickly we get those administered,” Stitt said. “We’ve set up some different (vaccination) pods in some historic minority communities to make sure that we are providing access all across the state.”