By May 21, 2015 Read More →

Oklahoma follows Texas by banning local fracking bans

Oklahoma shaken by big increase in earthquakes linked to waste water disposal wells since 2011

Oklahoma is set to join Texas in banning local fracking bans, as its Senate voted voted 33-13 on Thursday for the measure, which also prohibits local bans on wastewater disposal.


Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

The bill is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin for a signature as the state comes to grips with a spate of earthquakes linked to waste water disposal wells. All oil and gas wells produce water, including those that are fracked, that must be pumped back into the earth for disposal.

Until recently, Oklahoma, one of the biggest energy-producing states, had been cautious about linking the quakes to drilling. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey acknowledged earlier last month that it is “very likely” that recent seismic activity was caused by the injection of wastewater into disposal wells.

Earthquake activity in Oklahoma in 2013 was 70 times greater than it was before 2008, state geologists reported. Oklahoma historically recorded an average of 1.5 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. It is now seeing an average of 2.5 such quakes each day, according to geologists.

The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection, a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011, damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.


Oklahoma Republican Sen. Bryce Marlatt of Woodward.

The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, has ordered dozens of disposal wells to stop operating or change the way they are run because of concerns they might be triggering earthquakes, said spokesman Matt Skinner.

The bill will ensure Oklahoma doesn’t have a “patchwork of different standards” for oil and gas drilling across the state, according to Republican Sen. Bryce Marlatt of Woodward, who says regulation of oil and gas activities will remain with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Municipalities will still be able to adopt rules and regulations concerning road use, noise, odors and setbacks and fencing requirements for oil and gas well sites.

The bill appears to be similar to Texas legislation signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday. The new regulation prohibits cities and towns from imposing local ordinances preventing fracking and other potentially environmentally harmful oil and natural gas activities.

The much-watched measure sailed through the GOP-controlled Legislature after voters in Denton, a university town near Dallas, banned hydraulic fracturing locally in November.

The new law limits not only the Denton ban but other actions communities could take limitingenergy industry activities. It was backed by oil and gas concerns.


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