Government , Minerals Council

Federal agencies schedule open hearings on county oil & gas production

Two federal agencies are hosting open hearings in September that could impact the Osage mineral estate in the near future.

At the Sept. 6 Osage Minerals Council meeting, Chairman Everett Waller announced that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 Office will have a public session Sept. 25 at Pawhuska High School on potential permit modifications under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

A public meeting is scheduled for 5:30-6:30 p.m., with a hearing to follow at 7 p.m. Written comments will be accepted through Sept. 25.

The hearing stems from the August 2016 discovery of pollution in Bird Creek’s northern fork and one of its tributaries. An oily sheen, extreme salinity levels and dead aquatic animals were noticed on a tributary-fed pond on Chapman Ranch.

Initially thought to be caused by a wastewater spill or illegal dumping, the EPA announced in July 2017 that it traced the contamination to over-pressurized reservoirs connected to seven wells operated by three Tulsa-based producers. That in turn prompted the EPA to issue a temporary shutdown order in August 2017 and eventually, civil litigation. 

Among the terms of the proposed settlement agreement are permanently plugging and abandoning one injection well, placing new restrictions on the injection operations for the remaining six wells under the orders and place the same restrictions on a well that is being converted from production to injection in the area of concern.

Additionally, the new restrictions would reduce the injection pressures for the injection wells and significantly increase their monitoring and reporting requirements. It would also require surface water monitoring for 18 months in both Bird Creek’s northern fork and its tributary.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 24 at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus on the American burying beetle’s potential status change.

The largest of North America’s carrion beetles, the American burying beetle has been on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services endangered species list since 1988. Once found in 35 states, the insect is now only found in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska and Rhode Island.

In May, the federal government announced the possibility that the beetle could be reclassified from endangered to threatened and opened up a 60-day comment period. During that comment period, a public hearing was requested, thus prompting the session at OU-Tulsa. An informational meeting is scheduled for 5-6 p.m. in the Schusterman Center’s Perkins Auditorium, followed by a public hearing starting at 6:30 p.m.

Additionally, the comment period on the reclassification has been reopened through Oct. 9.