Friday, March 06, 2015

After industry pressure to quiet scientists, Okla. tightens permitting for fracking disposal wells

Mike Soraghan of Energy and Environment News has been on the cutting edge of reporting about earthquakes apparently related to injection wells used for disposal of wastewater from horizontal hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas. In a video, he discusses the new approach being taken by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to permitting of disposal wells.

The commission has started what it calls "yellow-light permitting," with extra restrictions and extra attention from inspectors, and the ability to shut down a well if it is deemed to have caused an earthquakes. "It makes it a little harder for the industry to permit wells," Soraghan said, but only disposal wells, not production wells. "A handful of wells have been shut down," he says, but the measure doesn't apply to existing wells.

Soraghan also discusses his story revealing that scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey "suspected as far back as 2010 that a big swarm of earthquakes around Oklahoma City was related to oil and gas production, but they were not saying that publicly, and they rejected those findings when other scientists came out." He said one reason for that may have been that when the state seismologist started to agree with those findings, "He was called into meetings with the president of the university where he works," and in one meeting was Harold Hamm, chairman of Continental Resources, "a looming figure in the state."

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