OK Lawmaker Warns Of Catastrophic Earthquake Linked To Disposal Wells

Wednesday, January 6th 2016, 7:01 pm
By: News 9

A state lawmaker suggested Oklahomans start pressuring their representatives to deal with earthquakes linked to disposal wells.

Rep. Richard Morrissette said policymakers should do more to prevent further property damage. The scientific consensus is that disposal wells are causing Oklahoma earthquakes.

“We are dumping an ocean of water, untreated back into the Earth. This is clearly manmade earthquakes,” said Morrissette (D-OKC).

Morrissette said damaging earthquakes caused by injecting water into the ground are out of control. He said Oklahoma should stop any further injection wells.

“What's going to happen when dormitories in Stillwater filled full of young students fall or other catastrophes happen, everybody is going to look back and say, ‘Why didn't we do something,’” Morrissette said.

After an earthquake, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission can ask companies to reduce their water volumes of disposal wells close to epicenters. Most operators cooperate, but SandRidge Energy defied the OCC on Dec. 3 and refused. A month has now passed with no fallout.

The OCC said it is doing all it can to try to change SandRidge’s permit in OCC court and could file the court request sometime next week. If a judge approves the request, compliance becomes absolutely mandatory and if a company violates its permit, it faces potential contempt action and fines.

So who has the power to act immediately on disposal wells? Gov. Mary Fallin's office said she does not have the authority under Senate Bill 809, which gave exclusive authority to the OCC.

“Her influence is deep and wide, if she wanted to influence her strength,” Morrissette said. “Apparently she wants to abdicate her authority on this issue.”

Morrissette said homeowners should call their state representative to push for a change in manmade earthquakes.

“Darn it, do it, because what's coming is going to be catastrophic,” Morrissette told News 9.

News 9 asked, in an emergency or when public safety is threatened, could the Governor then step in and issue an executive order on disposal wells to stop the threat? Her office responded late Wednesday afternoon with a statement:

"The Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Governor's Secretary of Energy and Environment are actively working on this issue and there is no need for the governor to intervene at this time. The governor is closely monitoring the situation."

Morrissette is holding a public hearing on Friday, Jan. 15 at the State Capitol where experts will talk about what has been happening with Oklahoma earthquakes. It will be on the 4th floor from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public is invited.