Update – Legislative action on earthquake issue

Update – Legislative action on earthquake issue

Imagine the following absurdity: a police officer pulls over a speeding motorist and issues him a ticket. The motorist responds, “You don’t have the authority to give me a ticket and I am not going to slow down!”

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Several months later, a judge sides with the officer and orders the motorist to stop speeding. There is no fine and no real incentive to obey the law in the future.

Of course, this would never happen. Upon finding the motorist guilty, the judge would require him to pay a fine, and the motorist won’t be as inclined to speed in the future.

As absurd as this may seem, as best I can ascertain, this scenario is akin to how the state currently polices the Class II injection wells that are correlated with the seismic swarms. An injection site operator can actually ignore the state’s request to cut back their injection activity even as surrounding seismic swarms are ongoing! By the time the operator comes into compliance, the damage has already been done — with little repercussion to the operator.

A few weeks ago, I wrote of the need for the Legislature to take immediate action. Last week we did exactly that by winning committee approval for House Bill 1411.

Representatives Lewis Moore, Richard Morrissette and I worked together to put into place a legal process for those operators who ignore cut back plans to have the ability to submit an appeal to a judge; but if found to be in violation, they will be forced to pay applicable fines. In this way, the same standards of justice which apply to the entire population will now also apply to injection site operators.

You may read the bill at the hd31.org/787 url.

Ironically, at about the same time the State Government Operations Committee was voting on House Bill 1411, state officials were making a disturbing discovery.

In response to last week’s newest earthquake swarm state officials were in the field checking the production logs of area injection sites. They verified that the two sites which I wrote about in an article a few weeks ago, have stayed offline and were not injecting. However, they discovered that a third site, albeit located several miles from the epicenter of the biggest quake, was injecting and appeared out of compliance with our area’s cut back order by about 20%.

I am at a complete loss to understand the lack of judgement which would lead this operator to exceed the cut back plan.

Later in the week, another 4.0 seismic event occurred east of Guthrie. This quake occurred in the vicinity of a site about which I previously wrote. I have not seen the production logs of this site since November, but at that time, I felt that substantive cut backs had not yet occurred.

I appreciate the work of Representative Richard Morrissette who has agreed to serve as the primary author of the bill, and Representative Moore who is co-sponsor of the bill.

I would also note that Speaker of the House has won committee approval of a similar, albeit less specific bill on this matter; however, it’s a proposal which could have a very similar impact as HB 1411. That bill number is HB 3158.

Time and again the cut back plans have proven effective at stemming the seismic swarms but these orders are only effective if enforceable and we are seeing an extremely disturbing trend by which a few operators seem to be ignoring the orders.

One way or another, the Legislature must take action. I intend to keep you informed of these efforts.

One other item of good news: the recent release emergency funding for earthquake response is having a major impact in allocating Corporation Commission resources for response to each of these new outbreaks. This will allow the state to more quickly determine those sites in violation of cut back orders, and to potentially expand the cut back zones in response to last week’s quakes. I anticipate these new actions to occur as soon as this week.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

Sincerely,

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