Regulation of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) by the Oil and Gas Conservation Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) is well managed but could use more funding, according to a review conducted by the nonprofit State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER).
The review was conducted by a seven-member team of three core members and four contributing observers representing environmental groups, state regulators, the oil and gas industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The review team has concluded that the Oklahoma hydrofracking program is, over all, well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives," said Leslie Savage, chief geologist in the oil and gas division of the Railroad Commission of Texas, who served as chair of the review team. "In fact, we believe several aspects of the Oil and Gas Conservation Division and its operations merit special recognition."
The Oklahoma hydrofracking regulatory program was singled out for its operations in the areas of regulations to address risks associated with hydrofracking, standards for hydrofracking, use of a five-year planning process that included hydrofracking in its program management goals, and the OCC guardian guidance document, which provides a process to assess, clean up and close sites that may impact surface or groundwater, STRONGER said.
"We have had hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma for more than 50 years, and our expertise in ensuring the practice is safe is getting national and global attention," said OCC Commissioner Bob Anthony.
However, the review team recommended that the state of Oklahoma develop a more stable source of funding for the Oil and Gas Conservation Division and provide resources to allow the filling of positions and provision of equipment "to a level that is sufficient to continue to meet program responsibilities." It also recommended that hydraulic fracturing information be included on the well completion report a producer files with the OCC.
"Our Oil and Gas Division is one of the most successful oil and gas regulatory programs in the nation, and we want to continue to be a leader," said OCC Chair Dana Murphy. "But that monetary and environmental success could be jeopardized if a solution isn't found to the funding issues facing the division. STRONGER's conclusion that a more stable source of funding must be found confirms what I have been emphasizing the past two years."