SandRidge Energy

A SandRidge Energy sign stands on the east side of Alva.

Billy Hefton | Enid News & Eagle | File Photo

In an alarming move, SandRidge Energy is refusing to shut down wastewater disposal wells associated with oil and gas production in Northwest Oklahoma.

That’s forcing the regulatory Oklahoma Corporation Commission to prepare court action against SandRidge regarding several injection wells the company has not shut down per OCC’s request.

In November, OCC spokesman Matt Skinner said Oklahoma was the No. 1 earthquake area in the world.

The scientific consensus is clear that wastewater injection is pinpointed as a trigger for the increased seismicity in our state.

According to Oklahoma law, OCC has exclusive jurisdiction, power and authority to make and enforce rules and orders, governing and regulating items “within its state as are reasonable and necessary for the purpose of preventing the pollution of the surface and subsurface waters in the state.”

OCC’s jurisdiction and authority pertains to Class II wells, injection wells.

“The companies have always been told that if they did not comply, court action would follow to get compliance,” Skinner said in a written statement. “The Oil and Gas Division cannot mandate a change in operations without due process, which includes court if the operator decides not to comply.”

The issues involve wells listed in a Dec. 3 bulletin in which OCC issued an advisory in response to a swarm of earthquakes in the Medford, Cherokee and Byron areas.

In November, The Journal Record reported in that “the driller’s precarious financial position, combined with the risk it faces from temblor swarms near its wastewater injection wells, could cause (SandRidge) to become insolvent if regulators shut down its disposal wells.”

Without commenting specifically on SandRidge, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association spokesman Cody Bannister said the industry is cooperating well with state regulators on the issue of earthquakes thus far.

We’d like to see that volunteer cooperation continue to work. We hope SandRidge’s refusal doesn’t encourage more energy companies to go down this slippery slope.

We understand SandRidge, which invested heavily in drilling in Northwest Oklahoma, is in a precarious financial condition in this current energy slump. But corporate financial conditions do not justify putting area property in seismic jeopardy.

In a written statement, SandRidge Director of Communications David Kimmel said “science must be our guide as we work together to address” this complex issue.

But SandRidge has not offered any scientific evidence to justify its stance.

Resources are tight for all the players involved, but stalling this situation in the courts to force OCC’s hand is not the best strategy.

Consider the potential liability of a destructive earthquake in the future.

And if that happened and a bad quake hit, the Legislature would probably overreact with a knee-jerk response based on politics instead of science.

We prefer honoring the OCC’s oversight instead of kicking this to the courts.

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