Kansas House Panel Rejects Bill to Prevent Oil and Gas Quakes

February 20, 2018

A Kansas House committee has rejected a bill that was designed to prevent earthquakes that experts say are caused by oil and gas production wastewater disposal methods.

The Sierra Club and several Kansas residents who say their homes were damaged by earthquakes supported the bill, while the oil and gas industry strongly opposed it, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The number of earthquakes recorded in Kansas, particularly in south-central counties, has risen in recent years and supporters of the bill say the increase coincides with more oil and gas production in the region. The Kansas Geological Society said most of the earthquakes are the result of injecting large volumes of wastewater from oil and gas production into disposal wells deep underground. Eventually, the underlying bedrock cracks, causing earthquakes.

During testimony before the committee Thursday, Cindy Hoedel, of Matfield Green, said the area of the Flint Hills where she lives didn’t have any earthquakes when she moved there five years ago but now has them on a regular basis.

‘We’re here in front of you today at the Legislature because the regulatory system has failed,” she said. “Their mission (at the Kansas Corporation Commission) calls for them to regulate the oil and gas industry to protect the public safety. They’re not doing it.”

In 2015, after several quakes in south-central Kansas, the KCC limited the amount of water that could be injected into wells in parts of Harper and Sumner counties to 8,000 barrels per day. The wells involved were those considered a risk for seismic activity.

The bill rejected Thursday would have imposed the same restrictions on about 430 other injection wells scattered throughout the state.

Edward Cross, president of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, said the bill was based on false assumptions about the causes of earthquakes in Kansas. He said it was a political effort by “activists” who are trying to disrupt the oil and gas industry.

“They offer ideas that are contradictory or otherwise separated from reality and try to manufacture debate that confuses policymakers and the public with assertions that are out of context and need more information for a complete and informed discussion,” he said in written testimony.

Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, said the problem with earthquakes in Kansas is real but conceded many of them are caused by oil and gas production in Oklahoma.

“Two years ago, early in the morning, my 100-year-old house groaned and made a lot of noise and shook with a very big earthquake,” she said. “So it seems to me, we need to do more work with Oklahoma.”

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