ENE series

The town of Medford in northwest Oklahoma has been quaking and shaking for some time. Dea Mandevill, Medford city manager, has experienced seismicity almost daily since 2014.

Just this month, some Edmond residents have sued energy companies claiming saltwater disposal wells were involved in central Oklahoma earthquakes.

Recently, hundreds packed the state Capitol to complain about the state’s seismicity issue.

It’s interesting how the metro-area earthquakes in a highly populated area got everyone’s attention.

While our state was stalled initially by concerns about a negative impact on the vital oil and gas industry, homeowners now are rightly concerned of potential damage to their personal property.

We shouldn’t let the pendulum swing toward fear. More than ever, we need facts.

When it comes to Oklahoma quakes, almost everybody on the research side points to disposal wells as having a link. That opinion is shared by Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.

What is the relationship between disposal wells and existing faults? It’s believed the faults are critically stressed with naturally occurring energy.

“That’s why we call them induced,” Teague said at the Enid Regional Development Alliance’s quarterly luncheon on Jan. 21. “We’re doing something to release that energy. So we say they’re communicating.

“It’s not necessarily that the water molecules are making their way all the way, but it’s the pressure wave … as we’re putting water here, that pressure is communicating with those faults.”

Throughout the seismicity, we’ve called for transparent self-reporting by cooperating energy companies to be underscored by serious site inspection.

SandRidge Energy initially ignored shut-down requests but eventually reached an agreement regarding wells in the Medford, Cherokee and Byron areas. We’re thankful that ended in agreement, not confrontation.

The innovative plan reduces wastewater volume injections and converts some wells from disposal to research operations.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the chief regulator according to Oklahoma statute, has exclusive jurisdiction, power and authority to make and enforce rules and orders. Both Gov. Mary Fallin and Teague are calling the OCC the lead agency in the state’s response to earthquake concerns.

Prioritizing resources for the OCC should be a significant goal this legislative session.

In other words, we don’t want the legislators trying to fix it themselves.

In theory, we believe in government efficiency, but the OCC is a woefully understaffed and underfunded agency.

You can’t make bricks without straw. Give the OCC the proper staffing and tools to do its job. 

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