Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say Oklahoma oil and gas regulators should “consider a moratorium” of waste-fluid disposal in its most seismically active areas.

The suggestion was made in the federal agency’s annual review of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s oversight of disposal wells, which Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request:

A student learns how to use equipment designed to test pipeline pressure at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City. Following pipeline safety rules is at the center of a hearing involving Oklahoma Natural Gas scheduled for Wednesday.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Oklahoma Natural Gas could face $8.5 million in fines after a house explosion in January. Steep penalties could come if state regulators find the utility didn’t follow pipeline safety rules.

A home in the Oklahoma City neighborhood of Whispering Hollow blew up in the early morning hours of January 2. The resident who lived there was injured and his house was destroyed. The blast damaged 50 other homes nearby.

Charles Lord, senior hydrologist with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, explains the modified and expanded emergency orders issued Sept. 12 to oil companies in response to  the 5.8-magnitude earthquake over the Labor Day weekend.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal and state regulators on Monday expanded and modified emergency orders limiting oil and gas activity at wells near a fault line that produced Oklahoma’s strongest earthquake on record.

Regulators are targeting 67 disposal wells in two counties near the damaging 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the state over the Labor Day weekend.

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Oklahoma on Saturday, prompting Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency. On Wednesday, officials said it was the strongest quake in the state’s history.

The quake followed a string of thousands of smaller tremors that have raised questions about the impact of drilling for oil and gas, and the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Mona Denney surveys earthquake damage inside her home near Pawnee, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Geological Survey is upgrading the strength of an earthquake that shook the state on Sept. 3 to 5.8 magnitude. That change makes the Labor Day weekend temblor the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma. The quake is the latest in a seismic surge researchers say has largely been fueled by the oil industry practice of pumping waste fluid into underground disposal wells.

Gary Matli, a field inspector supervisor for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, checks on a Craig Elder Oil and Gas disposal well located east of Guthrie, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The oil and gas industry practice of pumping waste fluid into disposal wells is likely responsible for Oklahoma’s exponential surge in earthquake activity.

An active aggregate mining operation near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s four primary environmental agencies have lost more than $15 million in state appropriations and tens of millions of dollars in legislatively directed reductions to revolving funds, OETA reports.

Oklahoma state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, gestures as he speaks during a public forum on earthquakes and fracking at the state Capitol on June 14, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, has dropped out of the race for Corporation Commissioner, which means incumbent Dana Murphy will win reelection to the regulatory post this fall.

In an email from his campaign Wednesday morning, Morrissette said his father’s death earlier this year affected him more deeply than he expected.

Gov. Mary Fallin
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed legislation that clarifies state regulators’ authority to take action on oil and gas operations linked to earthquakes.

The measure, House Bill 3158, authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman of Fairview, takes effect immediately.

Tulsa resident Ashley Hacker exits a polling place after casting his vote on a sales tax extension proposal Tuesday.
Rip Stell / The Journal Record

Voters across Oklahoma went to the polls on Tuesday for mostly local elections, including a series of sales tax initiatives in both northeast and central Oklahoma.

In the city of Tulsa, voters approved three separate tax propositions totaling 0.55 percent. They deal with public safety, infrastructure, and capital projects as part of the Vision 2025 program first approved in 2003.

“The tax rate will not go up in Tulsa,” said The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. “It’s just extending what they already have and will stay at 8.517 percent.”

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy talks with residents concerned about seismic activity during a March 25, 2015 town hall meeting in Medford.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Less than 24 hours after two magnitude 4.0 earthquakes struck central Oklahoma, Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy discussed the uptick in seismic activity with lawmakers.

The first magnitude 4.2 temblor came Monday evening shortly before midnight, and a second 4.1 magnitude tremor struck shortly after 5 a.m. Both were near the town of Crescent in Logan County.

New Source Energy Partners is headquartered at 914 N. Broadway Ave. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

It’s been more than 18 months since the start of the energy downturn that saw the price of oil dip to about $30 dollars a barrel.

It’s slowly starting to rebound, and it’s led to bankruptcies, a few success stories, and even some variables that have nothing to do with market forces.

Last week New Source Energy Partners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The small company based in an office along Broadway in Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley had a credit cut in October that took its borrowing base from $49 million to $24 million.

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to approve new rules specifying how agency staff and disposal well operators will settle disputes over regulatory actions issued to reduce earthquakes.

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House on Monday voted to approve legislation clarifying and confirming the authority of state oil and gas regulators to take actions designed to stop industry-linked earthquakes.

Jack Romine stands near a makeshift chimney state inspectors installed over an abandoned, leaky well that was discovered near his home in Bartlesville, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has hundreds of abandoned oil and gas wells, the byproduct of a century of petroleum production. Left unrepaired, many of these wells can endanger people and the environment. The state has a fund to plug abandoned wells, but some of that money has been diverted due to budget cuts.

Jack Romine discovered natural gas without spending a dime on exploration, drilling or production.