- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Corporation Commission would be given the authority many believed it already had - the right to impose restrictions in an emergency - under a bill approved Wednesday in a House committee.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, a Republican whose Fairview home is near where a 5.1-magnitude quake struck Saturday and several dozens of others in the past few months, introduced the bill after some had questioned whether the agency had the right to restrict how much oilfield wastewater could be disposed underground in potentially shaky geologic formations.

Oklahoma has seen a sharp rise in earthquakes since 2012, and the commission’s staff in recent years has issued directives asking well operators to limit disposals, including Tuesday, when the operators of 250 wells in northwestern Oklahoma were told to cut wastewater injections by 40 percent.

“There were some in the industry that challenged that authority,” Hickman said. He said his bill is intended to ensure that the commission has complete authority over the oil and gas sector.

The House Rules Committee voted 10-0 for the measure, which says the commission can take necessary action “without notice and hearing” if there is an emergency involving the environment or public safety, adding language that was not in earlier versions. The bill was then sent to the full House.

Oklahoma City-based SandRidge Energy Inc. initially refused to comply with recent commission directives concerning wastewater disposal but reached agreement with the agency last month.

Scientists and state regulators have concluded that a sharp increase in temblors, and their severity, was likely induced by the injection into the earth of wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations.

The number of earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or greater has risen in Oklahoma from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 900 last year, and studies have suggested that injecting high volumes of wastewater could aggravate natural faults. In Oklahoma’s six most earthquake-prone counties, the volume of wastewater disposal increased more than threefold from 2012 to 2014.

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House Bill 3158: http://bit.ly/1PZSnXa

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