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Oklahoma Supreme Court Tosses Kingfisher County Oil, Gas Wastewater Ordinance

Oklahoma regulators have exclusive jurisdiction over all oil and natural gas operations, the state’s high court has ruled, siding against Kingfisher County officials, who had attempted to ban the use of temporary wastewater lines on private property.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court late Tuesday ruled for the overriding authority of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission following a dispute that began earlier this year.

Kingfisher County commissioners, who preside over some of the most active oil and gas development in the state, in April revised permits for county pipeline crossing permits. They voted to not allow permits for temporary pipelines transporting wastewater from oil and gas production, so-called deleterious substances that include chemical, saltwater, waste oil or sediment. Temporary permits to transport freshwater were still allowed.

In reaction, the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association (OKOGA) filed a lawsuit, arguing that the deleterious substance definition used in the ordinance was overly broad and could encompass treated water or freshwater. The rule, said the OKOGA, also would eliminate wastewater recycling systems because it would be too expensive and unfeasible to bury new pipelines for each new well site.

The county commissioners’ “ban of temporary oil and gas lines carrying produced water within county road easements is contrary to state regulations,” said the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has “exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations” and “exclusive authority to regulate the transportation and disposal of water.

“Further, a legal challenge to the reasonableness of a rule or regulation imposed by a municipality, county or other political subdivision concerning road use, traffic, noise and odors incidental to oil and gas operations within their boundaries shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.”

OKOGA, which recently merged with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA),  applauded the ruling.

“This is an important decision for Oklahoma’s energy producers and job creators, ensuring much needed certainty and uniformity across Oklahoma’s 77 counties,” OIPA-OKOGA President Chad Warmington said.

“A patchwork of local ordinances and regulations creates unnecessary confusion, thwarts innovative solutions, and threatens environmental protections and public health. Using temporary water lines is an industry standard practice that has numerous environmental benefits, including reducing truck traffic and supporting water recycling efforts.”

OPIA-OKOGA members, which produce nearly all of the state’s oil and natural gas, “have a long history of partnering with local leaders and host communities to ensure that we responsibly develop Oklahoma’s abundant energy resources,” Warmington added. The court’s ruling “ensures we can continue that collaboration with the regulatory certainty that our industry needs.”

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