Regulators and Energy Industry Debate Proposed Disposal Well Notification Rule

  • Joe Wertz

Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry is resisting a rule change proposed by the Corporation Commission’s top pollution official.

Tim Baker, who manages pollution abatement for the commission’s oil and gas conservation division, suggested the rule at an informal meeting on Wednesday. The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

A proposed rule change would require injection well operators that have pits to store waste larger than 50,000 barrels to notify people within a half mile, rather than just a quarter mile.

Representatives for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association said the rule change “would be too restrictive for small oil and gas operators.”

Baker said the proposed rule change would increase transparency and help the public know about companies’ plans to build or upgrade large wastewater disposal wells, the Journal reports. Legal notices are published in newspapers, but oil and gas-rich regions have so many listings that large operations are often overlooked, Baker pointed out.

Representatives for Chesapeake Energy said they’d be willing to extend notification even farther, notifying landowners within one-mile radius, the paper reports, but Baker said that might be too much of a burden on smaller operators.

OIPA representatives said more notice isn’t necessary, but Terry Stowers with the Coalition of Oklahoma Surface and Mineral Owners disagreed, according to the Journal:

“I don’t know why you guys are so paranoid about a little bit of notice,” he said.

The commission will hold hearings in 2013 to approve possible rule changes.