EPA Wants Oklahoma Oil and Gas Officials to Issue More Earthquake Restrictions

  • Joe Wertz

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is urging Oklahoma oil and gas officials to issue more regulatory actions to stem the surge of industry-linked earthquakes.

An EPA review that concluded Sept. 29 recommends the Oklahoma Corporation Commission “implement additional regulatory actions … including further reduction of injection volumes,” EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan reports.

Such restrictions have not been easy for OCC to accomplish. Oklahoma issued its first volume restrictions in August, months after Kansas had implemented such cuts. Commission officials have questioned whether they have authority. More recently, a Tulsa company has challenged the restrictions.

OCC spokesman Matt Skinner said the review shows that EPA is supportive of the state agency’s approach and actions.

The EPA review highlighted a number of challenges hampering Oklahoma’s earthquake response, including “ongoing problems” with its databases of wells and drilling data, which are difficult to use, “due to major data accessibility problems and unreliability.”

From the EPA report, signed by William Honker, director of the Water Quality Protection Division for the federal agency’s Dallas-based Region 6:

… implementation has been less than satisfactory. The key advantages to the system include a single database and public GIS viewing capabilities. The disadvantages center on lack of effective IT support to replace the abilities to query and verify data that was present with the earlier system. This results in multiple decentralized data repositories and use of external data in order to ensure that UIC staff can effectively do their jobs.

The EPA recommended the commission hire additional staff or contract outside of the commission to resolve the database problems.

The federal agency also recommended further reduction of disposal well injection volumes and additional mapping of the Arbuckle Formation, a popular underground target for disposal well operators.