Could move by Kingfisher County lead to more oil and gas lawsuits?

A month after the Oklahoma Supreme Court sided with the Oklahoma Oil  and Gas Association in a water-line legal fight with Kingfisher County Commissioners, the issue remains of concern to oil and gas producers.

“We are still struggling with this beast of produced water,” said attorney Tim Sowecke as he opened a Tuesday morning discussion of the issue  held as a prelude to a water conference billed as Cost-Effective Water Management Congress–SCOOP and STACK 2018.

Sowecke is with the Crowe Dunlevy law firm in Oklahoma City and spoke to about two dozen producers and others still very much interested in the legal battle that stirred up operators in the STACK and elsewhere.

At the end of his hour-long talk with producers, Sowecke warned them, “The moral of the story is that in the absence of regulatory certainty, the result will be litigation and that’s not the best thing. But we’re going to see litigation on this front.”

“This front” is the issue of how far county commissioners can go in regulating their interests versus those of oil and gas producers who often rely on poly lines to obtain the precious water needed for their fracking purposes.

The Supreme Court ruled in November that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has regulatory authority over such lines, not a county commission. The court said in mid-November, “The Kingfisher County Commissioners’ ban of temporary oil and gas lines carrying produced water within county road easements is contrary to Title 52, section 137.1.” It said the OCC has “exclusive jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas operations.”

Sowecke argued at the time that the move by the Kingfisher County Commissioners was ‘over reach’ and that’s just what the Supreme Court ruled.

The Title 52, section 137.1, created and approved in the 2015 legislative session, he said was “kinda like a sleeping dinosaur.”

“It’s still a hot topic,” said Sowecke who went on to predict it might result in new bills in the 2019 session of the state legislature. “It’s a quasi-eminent domain issue that could be addressed by the legislature.”

He urged the operators to be wary of what kind of easement documents they have to roadways.

“Operators have to ask themselves—have I been getting all the rights of those involved?”

The issue is still not totally put to bed. The Kingfisher County Commissioners indicated in late November they intended to request the Supreme Court to review the decision.

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