Background on Our Elected Representatives

by Stephen on 09/18/2015

This is from a commentary written in June, 2014:

When I began investigating the Pointe Vista Development park privatization over six years ago, I interviewed many state and federal officials seeking information about the proposed development.

Josh Brecheen was a senior field representative for U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, when I first spoke with him. I’ll always remember what he said about the Pointe Vista project: “Senator Coburn doesn’t think that progress should be stalled by some black beetle.” He was talking about the federally-protected, American Black Beetle on the Endangered Species list. He conveniently ignored the fact that Lake Texoma State Park shoreline is prime habitat for the American Bald Eagle, our national symbol. which would be displaced by Pointe Vista’s high-end project.

When our former State Senator, Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant), ran for reelection in 2010, Brecheen ran against him as the antidote to Gumm’s shameless promotion of the Pointe Vista land deal.  Second only to Mary Fallin, these two were the most visible proponents of shutting down Lake Texoma State Park and selling it.

In 2012, Brecheen told me that the reason the Pointe Vista project was being segmented into three parts and constructed in stages, which would violate federal laws, was because “they can’t do it any other way.”

Brecheen Admits Pointe Vista Could Not Pass Environmental Review

Brecheen was basically admitting that the project could not withstand a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is the comprehensive federal environmental review required by the Corps of Engineers on the entire 3,000 acre project, before they could buy “Area C” – a third land parcel.

He was suggesting that the Pointe Vista proposal could be found to be unsustainable from an economic and environmental standpoint if the Corps studied it closely.  Pointe Vista owners, Aubrey McClendon and Mark Fischer, must have also agreed there were risks with environmental review, or they would have funded the EIS.

I asked Brecheen why our state legislators, such as he and Representative Tommy Hardin, and Governor Mary Fallin, would support a project that violates federal laws.  He responded, “Why should the state comply with NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act which requires the EIS in this case) if the Corps of Engineers doesn’t?”

US Fish & Wildlife Claims Developers Reduce Access to Public Lands

Last fall, 2013, Brecheen told me that Pointe Vista’s attorneys at McAfee & Taft were the authors of the 2008 state land purchase contracts providing for the sale of 758 acres of Lake Texoma State Park to McClendon and Fischer. McClendon’s attorneys also wrote the “secret land deal” in June, 2008, with state tourism officials arranging for Pointe Vista to purchase an additional 1,022 acres of public lands.  Those included all of the remaining state park campgrounds and hundreds of acres of shoreline wild lands south of the park all the way to the BNSF railroad bridge.

According to US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials, the loss of these federally-protected public lands in Oklahoma, along with 600 acres lost at Little Mineral Bay for George Schuler’s Denison, TX Project, would significantly reduce public access for fishing, hunting, and public recreation, without providing mitigation to offset the losses of fish and wildlife habitat.

Brecheen called me a week later, pleading with me to censor this information about McAffe & Taft.  He said that it could damage his relationship with Governor Fallin and the state Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO).  The CLO initiated the privatization of Lake Texoma State Park over ten years ago.

Brecheen and our state representative Tommy Hardin are among the first to claim “federal overreach” and allege the violation of Oklahoma’s state’s rights.  In actuality, the Army Corps of Engineers was absolutely responsible for federal under reach, by cooperating in the willful violation of laws governing the Lake Texoma land transfers.

Tulsa District Corps environmental officials refused to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 2005, when they were asked by USFWS officials to reopen the environmental “Scoping” process for the Lake Texoma land transfer and study the most likely result, that it would be sold for commercial development. Federal law prohibits the direct sale of public lands to private developers.

State and federal officials conspired to take valuable public lands without conducting proper environmental reviews at Lake Texoma State Park and in Denison, Texas.  In Oklahoma, the state land commissioners illegally brokered the sale of federally-protected Lake Texoma State Park lands.  In Texas, the City of Denison acted as the broker for the George Schuler Development.  An inadequate and cursory environmental review by the Corps was conducted for the EIS which preceded the land transfer to Denison last summer.

According to Ed Phillips, the federal government has failed to “fund and update the Lake Texoma lake-wide EIS (1976), the Lake Master Plan (1978), and the Shoreline Management Plan (1996) which would greatly improve best management practices.”

Ed Phillips, Creator of LTA Legislative Campaign

Tourism and Pointe Vista Abandon Environmental Review in 2011

A comprehensive EIS  initiated on the entire 3,000 acre Pointe Vista proposal in September, 2009, was never adequately funded by owners Aubrey McClendon or Mark Fischer to conduct the Draft EIS.  It was quietly abandoned by the state Tourism & Recreation Department, and Pointe Vista, without any public notice by the Corps in 2011. I learned this in early 2012 from interviews with USACE Tulsa District environmental officers.

Pointe Vista wanted the state taxpayers to subsidize their environmental review.   Senator Brecheen told me, “Why should the state pay for it?”  But he didn’t have a problem with the fact they had abandoned the EIS a year earlier in 2011.  McClendon and Fischer were left without the federal approvals they needed to begin construction of their hotel and convention center.  And yet, in the local media, Brecheen was encouraging them to “go vertical” before September, 2012, or they would be unable to meet their May, 28, 2014 contractual deadline.

The election campaign manager in 2010 for Senator Brecheen and Representative Hardin was long-time Republican Party activist J. Lynn Windel, a senior law partner in the Madill, Oklahoma based “Little Law Firm.” Dan Little and the Little Law Firm represented Pointe Vista in Marshall County.  I learned that Dan’s father, Reul Little, had more than once expressed his interest in privatizing and developing Lake Texoma State Park over thirty years ago.

Brecheen and Hardin are good examples of legislators who pose as “people’s candidates.”  Once in office, they represent the private interests, like McClendon, Fischer and Pointe Vista, who want to take our public lands for development.

Even as Pointe Vista is being sued by the CLO in Oklahoma County District Court for breach of contract for failing to build the promised hotel and convention center, and may even lose the park land, Brecheen and Hardin only talk about finding another developer to do the project.  The idea of restoring the park is the last thing on their mind. It’s been privatized and they intend to see that it stays privatized.  And that’s who they represent, special interests who have no intention of allowing the park to be retaken by the state, or restored to The Public Trust.  Pointe Vista and the politicians they own, have no use for citizen involvement or media exposure which they can’t control, or which threatens their private corporate interests.

Previous post:

Next post: