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Sierra Club files law suit against oil producers over Oklahoma earthquakes

Regulator orders operators to reduce injections by 500,000 b/d of wastewater over 5,200 sq. miles of NW Oklahoma

The Sierra Club and Public Justice filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against three Oklahoma oil producers on the same day the state introduced a plan it hopes will reduce earthquakes associated with waste water injection wells.

OklahomaThe law suit alleges that production waste from fracking and oil production have contributed to an alarming increase in earthquake activity in the state and demands that New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company, as a first step, “reduce, immediately and substantially, the amounts of production waste they are injecting into the ground.”

The suit comes in the wake of a 5.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday. In 2014, seismologists reported more than 5,000 earthquakes in Oklahoma. In 2015, the state experienced 907 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater, according to the suit.

“The science laid out in our case is clear,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “Oklahoma may be on the verge of experiencing a strong and potentially catastrophic earthquake. All evidence points to alarming seismic activity in and around fracking operations, and that activity is becoming more frequent and more severe.”

“We disagree with the Sierra Club’s assertions and will address them in the appropriate forum,” said Chesapeake spokesman Gordon Pennoyer. “Chesapeake respects the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s regulatory authority and technical expertise and is complying with the Commission’s directives.”

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators on Tuesday issued their most far-reaching directive yet in response to a surge in earthquakes by asking the operators of nearly 250 injection wells to reduce the amount of wastewater they inject underground by 40 per cent.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission wants operators over the next two months to reduce injections by more than 500,000 barrels of wastewater daily in an area that covers more than 5,200 square miles of northwest Oklahoma.

The Commission says it is implementing the largest volume reduction plan yet for oil and gas disposal wells in western Oklahoma. The plan covers 5,281 square miles and 245 disposal wells injecting wastewater into the Arbuckle formation.

Commission director Tim Baker says in conjunction with the 191,000 barrel a day reduction plan begun in Fairview recently, the total volume cutback for the entire area will be more than half a million barrels a day, or about 40 per cent.

Baker says the earthquake activity in the region demanded a regional response.

“We have taken a number of actions in the Medford, Fairview, and Cherokee areas,” Baker said in a press release.

“However, there is agreement among researchers, including our partners at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, that the data clearly underscored the need for a larger, regional response. That is why, even as we took actions in various parts of the region in response to specific earthquake events, we were already working on a larger plan. ”

Baker says while the plan is a response to the continued seismicity in the area, the action will also include areas that are not yet experiencing major earthquakes.

“The wells covered in this plan include those along the western area of the plan’s boundaries where there has not yet been major earthquake activity,” said Baker. “This plan is aimed not only at taking further action in response to past activity, but also to get out ahead of it and hopefully prevent new areas from being involved.”

The plan will be phased in over four stages and two months as recommended by researchers, who caution against sudden pressure changes. Meanwhile, Commission staff continues to work on other areas of the state.

 

 

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