Shale Boom's Dark Secret, Ruined Old Oil Wells in Oklahoma
The case belies a broader problem, said Matt Skinner, public information officer at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, a regulatory body. The agency tried and failed to require operators to report incidents even if they didn’t cause environmental damage, he said, but couldn’t get support from bigger players in the industry. As a result, companies are not required to report incidents that result only in monetary damage to a well. Those issues must be taken to district court.
The main obstacle has been a lack of data, according to Skinner. So now, the commission is focusing on encouraging vertical well operators to report problems. They’ve confirmed 20 incidents and have at least 55 more pending, Skinner said.
"We know it’s happening, we know it’s an issue," he said. "We have every reason to think there are more incidents out there than we know of."
Cantrell’s organization, meanwhile, is pushing to slow down further development of horizontal drilling until better data is gathered on their effect on existing wells.
"We need to slow this process down until we can get the regulatory regime to keep up with it," he said. "We’ve applied a vertical regulatory regime to a horizontal world."
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