Alert! OCC and Earthquakes
April 22, 2016
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission ("OCC") and the Oklahoma Legislature appear to be working together to reduce saltwater injection volumes in some of the most seismic-active counties across the state.
In early 2016, the Oil and Gas Conservation Division of the OCC began sending letters to operators of saltwater disposal wells in certain areas of Oklahoma that have seen increased seismic activity. These letters directed those operators to reduce the volume of saltwater disposed of over a certain period of time. The OCC's letters raised several questions, including whether the OCC has jurisdiction to retroactively amend a saltwater disposal well permit for the purpose of regulating seismic activity.
On April 18, 2016, Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 3158 to amend 17 O.S. § 52 to include the following language: "For purpose of immediately responding to emergency situations having potentially critical environmental public safety impact and resulting from activities within its jurisdiction, the Corporation Commission may take whatever action is necessary, without notice and hearing, including without limitation the issuance or execution of administrative agreements by the Oil and Gas Conversation Division of the Corporation Commission, to promptly respond to the emergency." The following news article discusses the Governor's approval of this bill: Governor approves Bill 3158
House Bill 3158 appears to be the Legislature's attempt to cure any jurisdictional issues regarding the OCC and saltwater disposal regulations. However, the language set forth in House Bill 3158 does not fully address those issues. Hall Estill has done extensive research on this issue and continues to monitor any action by the Oklahoma Legislatures and the OCC. We hope you will consider consulting us with any questions you may have on the matter.
If you have questions, contact your Hall Estill attorney