Watch Group Alerts DEQ To Gas Leak At Stillwater Oil Pad
STILLWATER - The Department of Environmental Quality has taken action at a White Star Petroleum oil pad in Stillwater, after discovering gas leaking from the site. A group of concerned citizens alerted the agency to the problem, and now they would like to see a broader investigation.
Environmentalists went to the DEQ with video evidence of the gas that was leaking from the well pad. Now they wonder how many other sites might be having the same problem.
“If you have this sort of thing going on with a newer site, what’s going on with older, more rusty, less-maintained sites?” asked Kel Pickens, co-founder of Stop Fracking Payne County.
Pickens and his wife Carolyn Meyer escorted members of the national Earthworks organization to White Star’s “Duncan” site in August, where they used an infrared FLIR camera to record the gas emissions. One of the Earthworks group’s primary missions is to visit oil pads across the country to make sure there are no dangerous chemicals escaping into the air.
Their Oklahoma organizer Hilary Lewis said, “The camera is specifically calibrated to see certain pollutants, so we know it is one of the 20-plus pollutants that the camera can see, most of which are Volatile Organic Compounds.”
Pickens and Meyer escorted Earthworks members to other oil pads in the area as well, but the Duncan site stood out from the rest. Together Stop Fracking Payne County and Earthworks brought their complaint to the DEQ, which brought its own infrared FLIR camera to the oil pad unannounced in September and recorded the same gas emitting from this container.
The agency ordered White Star to install new hatches, and the case was resolved in December.
Many chemicals from these sites are allowed to be released into the air, however. “You can still smell fumes, but they can still be in compliance,” Pickens explained. “That’s when you start looking at the regulations that we have as Oklahoma law.”
The DEQ told News 9 these gas leaks are not uncommon, but could not say how frequently they are found.
Pickens and Meyer say without the infrared video in this case, they would have never known there was a problem. They encourage citizens to file a formal complaint if they think something is wrong with an oil pad near them.
“The future of Oklahoma is going to be how active citizens are on their own behalf,” Pickens said.
White Star Petroleum provided this response to the investigation:
“White Star operates exclusively in Oklahoma and prides itself on being an ethical corporate citizen and steward of the state’s environment. The company regularly monitors its pad sites for natural gas emissions and fully remedied the condition of the Duncan pad site promptly upon becoming aware of it. We are resolute in our commitment to continue safe and responsible operations in compliance with all applicable environmental and other laws.”