Oklahoma Limits Waste Water Disposal Volume

Published August 13, 2015

At the suggestion of its Oil and Gas Conservation Division, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered fracking waste water disposal well operators in parts of Logan and Oklahoma counties to cut their water volumes over the next 60 days. 

The Commission’s actions came just a couple of months after Oklahoma barred cities from banning fracking. Upon signing the bill, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signaled her support for the Commission’s work stating, “Corporation commissioners are elected by the people of Oklahoma to regulate the oil and gas industry. They are best equipped to make decisions about drilling and its effect on seismic activity, the environment and other sensitive issues.” 

The Commission, made up of three commissioners elected by a statewide vote, has legislative, administrative and judicial authority. It was established in 1907 to regulate public service corporations, including the production, transportation and storage of oil and natural gas and the underground disposal of waste fluids related to oil and gas production. 

With concerns about tremors caused by poor waste water injection well siting rising in states that have embraced fracking, the Commission acted in response to seismologists warning of the potential risks of causing earthquakes by injecting large volumes of water into the crystalline basement rock lying beneath the Arbuckle rock layer. 

Policy ‘Carefully Researched and Debated’

Commissioner Dana Murphy said in a statement, “This is an issue completely outside the scope of the experience of not only this agency, but all our partner agencies and stakeholders as well.”

“There was a time when the scientific, legal, policy and other concerns related to this issue had to first be carefully researched and debated in order to provide a valid framework for such action. That time is over,” Murphy said.

The commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division said operators of 23 wells in the Logan County trend area are to reduce disposal volumes by 38 percent. The plan would cut the total disposal volume in the area to 2.4 million barrels, less than levels from 2012 when seismic activity in the region jumped. 

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.