- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) - A judge has overturned a Nebraska commission’s decision to let a Colorado company use a well in the Nebraska Panhandle to dispose of salty groundwater and chemical-laden fracking wastewater that result from oil and gas exploration and production.

Judge Derek Weimer said in a ruling released Tuesday that the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had exceeded its authority in April 2015 when it approved a request by Terex Energy Corp., of Broomfield, Colorado. The company wanted permission to dispose of wastewater produced in Colorado and Wyoming and eventually Nebraska, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/296RSZH ).

A petition for the judge’s review was filed by neighboring landowners Jane Grove and Hughson Flying A Ranch Inc. In court documents, they said there’s no Nebraska statute that allows the commission to authorize disposal of the wastewater from other states. The judge agreed.

“If the state intended for the commission to have the authority to permit the creation of a commercial disposal well intended to receive and dispose of wastewater from this and any other state, then it should so specify,” Weimer said. “Silence is not tacit approval.”

Suzanne Gage, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office, which represented the commission, said the office is reviewing the decision and will be conferring with the commission and its director.

As much as 10,000 barrels a day of wastewater would have been injected into an old oil well on a ranch in Sioux County. The state already has more than 140 injection wells for such disposal, but the well north of Mitchell would have been the largest.

Nebraska already has 121 active wastewater disposal wells, but the project drew objections from environmental groups and nearby landowners who worried that leaks or spills could contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people in eight states and supports irrigation.

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Information from: Star-Herald, https://www.starherald.com

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