September 18, 2021

OK Governor, Corporation Commission Address Seismic Activity

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy called for meeting on earthquake response to consider changes that have occurred since the state began its earthquake response program three years ago.

“It’s very important for all to understand what’s known, what’s not known, and what the [commission] and others have been and are doing,” Murphy said in a statement. “My recent meeting with [state Senator Jerry Ellis], the conflicting information that continues to be disseminated, and new data and regulatory changes have led me to call for a meeting at this time.”

Murphy noted that the commission staff responds to seismic events by checking for anything unusual in the operation of any disposal wells within the vicinity of a seismic swarm, as disposal wells are of key interest to researchers studying Oklahoma’s earthquake outbreak.

“More money and equipment are being brought into the effort, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey working closely with this agency and others in the response,” Murphy said. “And while many know we have adopted the National Academy of Sciences ‘traffic light’ system for the permitting and operation of disposal wells, the way that is being used has advanced over time as more is known, and will no doubt continue to evolve.”

In addition, Murphy said that Oklahoma has adopted new rules that have received the necessary approval of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to greatly increase reporting of the volume and pressure of many disposal wells, as well as increase testing requirements. Additional requirements also are being discussed and considered.

In a companion statement, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas issued an invitation for all concerned over earthquake increase to learn more about the state’s response to the issue.

“If anyone has suggestions to add to our current game plan, please don’t hesitate to bring them forward,” Douglas said. “I encourage anyone who truly has a concern to take the time to learn something about what’s really happening in terms of the state’s response and the OCC’s risk-based management plan based on the latest scientific and seismic data.”

Douglas noted that wastewater disposal wells under OCC jurisdiction are at the center of the state’s response plan.

In related news, Governor Mary Fallin created a Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity to link researchers with policy makers and energy industry experts. The council will be headed by Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.

“Oklahoma has always had seismic activity,” said Fallin. “But the reality is, we are seeing more earthquakes today than we did several decades ago. It’s important we study this issue and have sound science that can inform decisions made in both the public and private sector. This new council will link researchers with the energy industry and policymakers to ensure we are maximizing communication and access to information. We can’t examine a complex issue like this in a vacuum; everyone needs to be at the same table and talking.”

The coordinating council will include input from public sector groups, such as the Oklahoma Geologic Survey, the Corporation Commission, and the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board; research institutions, including the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University; industry groups, such as the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association; and state legislators.

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