hydraulic fracturing

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are expanding rules designed to reduce earthquake activity triggered by fracking. Updated guidelines released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission put new requirements on companies operating in two of the state’s most booming oil fields.

Workers hammer spikes into place on a new rail spur south of Kingfisher.
Brent Fuchs / Journal Record

A Houston-based company is planning to invest up to $40 million in a rail spur and transportation loading center near Kingfisher.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators on Tuesday released details on new guidelines created to reduce earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing in two of the state’s most-booming oil and gas fields.

Tammy Mix's sons play on the sidewalk as a drilling rig peeks above the tree line behind her Stillwater home.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of debate, drafting and deferring, the Stillwater City Council on Monday approved a stricter oil and gas ordinance.

The council unanimously approved the new rules, which were crafted with the input of residents, the energy industry and Senate Bill 809 — legislation that goes into effect in August preventing municipalities from enacting ordinances that ban fracking and other oil and gas activities, The Oklahoman‘s Adam Wilmoth reports:

Oil-field workers in November 2014 tending to American Energy-Woodford's Judge South well near Perkins, Okla., shortly after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered it temporarily shut-in.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In November 2011, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague, Okla., causing significant damage and injuring two people. Right away, the possibility that the disposal of wastewater by injecting it deep into the earth — part of the hydraulic fracturing process — was to blame came up.

While most of the attention on the impacts of fracking has focused on things like drinking water, air pollution and earthquakes, state regulators in Pennsylvania are working on another less-discussed, but no less serious, side effect of oil and gas development: forest fragmentation.

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

The video, produced by Ariane Wu, was based on a reporting collaboration between myself and Reveal’s Michael Corey

oil pump
Sarah Nichols / Flickr

Gov. Mary Fallin signed controversial legislation in May outlawing municipal bans on fracking and other oil and gas activities. Officials in some communities are re-examining their local drilling ordinances to comply with the law, which goes into effect later this summer.

One city in southeastern Oklahoma, however, isn’t budging.

Oklahoma City residents packed a public meeting about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner, a city water supply. Residents were concerned about water and air pollution, truck traffic and noise, and earthquakes.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Legislature is sending a message to towns, cities and counties: Don’t try to ban fracking.

Oklahoma legislators were inspired by the November 2014 voter-approved city fracking ban enacted in Denton, Texas. And, like their counterparts in Texas, they were determined to make such action illegal.

Officials in at least two cities have publicly questioned bills filed during the 2015 legislative session that would limit the local governments’ authority to regulate oil and gas activity.

The bills’ authors say the measures are meant to prevent towns, cities and counties from banning or effectively banning oil and gas drilling and related production activities, like hydraulic fracturing. Officials in Norman and Stillwater, for their part, say the legislation is an overreach that could limit their ability to write ordinances to protect the health and safety of local residents.

Volunteers watching the polls in November 2014 in Denton, Texas, before voters approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Photomancer / Flickr

As legislation written to prevent counties and municipalities from banning hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas activities advances through the Oklahoma House and Senate, some city leaders and their advocates say the measures go too far and could have unintended consequences.

'Mess In Texas'

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A proposed amendment to legislation limiting the power local governments have to regulate oil and gas operations expands the bill’s language to prevent cities and towns from enacting rules “effectively” banning drilling, fracking and related activities.

House Bill 2178 was authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who also wrote the amendment. I’ve highlighted the proposed changes below:

Protestors outside a public meeting in Oklahoma City about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner held signs and chanted "Stop fracking now" and "No more drilling."
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Senate Energy Committee approved a bill Thursday during its first meeting of the session that would give the state authority to regulate oil and gas operations.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said SB0809 “…preempts cities from preventing drilling operations in municipalities.”

There were no questions from committee members about the bill and it received a do pass recommendation. Sen. John Sparks, R-Norman, cast the only vote against the do pass recommendation.


Protestors outside a public meeting in Oklahoma City about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner held signs and chanted "Stop fracking now" and "No more drilling."
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on fracking in 2014, Oklahoma Rep. Casey Murdock took notice.

A representative for Pedestal Oil Company explains the Lake Hefner drilling proposal to a crowd gathered in the Ed Lycan Conservatory at Will Rogers Gardens.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A rowdy crowd of concerned residents shouted at city officials and questioned representatives of an oil company at a Thursday night meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

A Frack Free Denton booth at the University of North Texas. On Nov. 4, voters approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Crystal J. Hollis / Flickr

Driven by water worries, safety questions and quality of life concerns, residents in Oklahoma and states around the country have pushed for citywide bans on hydraulic fracturing.

Many of those efforts have proved successful, but, in the end, fracking bans might be more about lawyers than voters.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Insufficient rains and increasing demand put enormous pressure on Oklahoma’s water resources both on the surface and underground. But it’s also hard to overstate the role evaporation plays in the drought.

The oil and gas industry has been part of the problem, storing tens of millions of gallons of water needed for the hydraulic fracturing process in large, open pits, leaving it to be ravaged by evaporation until the water is needed.

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) speaking during a September 9 interim study on oil and gas regulation.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

At an interim hearing at the state Capitol Tuesday, a state representative from north-central Oklahoma questioned whether the state was properly inspecting oil and gas wells and had the rules necessary to prevent contamination of water supplies.

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) conducted the interim study and held the hearing. He’s concerned about saltwater pollution in Kay and Noble Counties, which has had large-scale fish-kills for three years in a row.

Pittsburgh International Airport employee Bob Mrvos jokes that you could golf in the terminals' corridors — they're that empty, especially compared with other airports he flies into in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago.

"You walk through those airports and you can barely get through the hallway there's so many people," Mrvos says. "And when you land in Pittsburgh, it's like the airport's closed."

Joy Hampton / The Norman Transcript

The Lowry Room at the Norman Public Library filled to capacity Monday night, and a mass of people packed into the hallways to listen to a forum on hydraulic fracturing that included an OU scientist, an assistant city attorney, and a lawyer from upstate New York who’s helped communities there ban fracking.

StateImpact’s Logan Layden moderated the event as each panelist made a presentation, and read questions from the audience.