The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the regulator of oil and gas in Oklahoma, has directed operators of 23 injection wells in a designated area to reduce rates of injection by 38% by October 2, 2015. The order covers a 15-mile-by-40-mile “area of interest,” stretching northwest from the outskirts of Oklahoma City. The Commission’s letter may be viewed here: Oklahoma Corp Commn quake letter
Earthquakes in Oklahoma have increased from 2 in 2012 to 359 in 2014; so far in 2015, 253 quakes have been detected.
Dana Murphy, one of the three elected members of the Corporation Commission, said “This is an issue completely outside the scope of the experience of not only this agency, but all our partner agencies and stakeholders, as well. There was a time when the scientific, legal, policy and other concerns related to this issue had to first be carefully researched and debated in order to provide a valid framework for such action. That time is over.”
Earthquakes have been a political hot potato in Oklahoma. See recent Energywire article.
In Texas, the Railroad Commission held show cause hearings last month to require two injection well operators in the Barnett Shale to show cause why their operations should not be halted or curtailed because of earthquake activity near their wells. The hearings examiners in those cases have not yet issued a proposal for decision.
The Railroad Commission would do well to consider Oklahoma’s experience.