Small drilling companies, which Soraghan says are "as revered as the family farmer" in Oklahoma, complain that big oil companies are drilling long horizontal wells through their fields, which they say siphons off their oil and damages their older, vertical wells.
|An illustration of how fracking fluid from a horizontal well can hit a vertical well.|
(Illustration by Environmental Protection Agency)
Zack Taylor, who has a small family-run oil company in Seminole and is also a state representative, told Soraghan: "The whole argument boils down to private property rights. . . You can't step on someone's property right to promote development."
Large oil drillers say there are protections in place for small drillers. Horizontal wells are supposed to stay at least 600 feet away from vertical wells (though the Oklahoma Corporation Commission can waive that). Vertical drillers can also buy into a new horizontal well, and if that's not possible, can cut a deal with the horizontal driller. Alternatively, an OCC judge can assign fair market value to the vertical driller's interest. And if all else fails, the vertical driller can file suit. And pay lawyers.