WINDSOR, Kan. — Kansas residents are broadening the fight over an oil-related waste disposal well in the Flint Hills into a protest of similar wells across several counties.
Residents of Chase, Morris and other counties known for open pastures and tallgrass ecology lost efforts last month to block operation of a saltwater injection well near the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City, KCUR-FM reported .
Petitioners said they won’t appeal the decision by the Kansas Corporation Commission, the state’s energy-regulating body.
Doing so would be “fruitless,” said Cindy Hoedel, a resident in Matfield Green. “I don’t think there’s any chance that they would change their minds.”
Residents said they’re now focusing on fighting plans of additional wells across several counties, and have already filed protest letters against another application for saltwater injection near Hamilton.
Energy companies use such wells to dispose wastewater resulting from oil and natural gas production. U.S. Geological Survey officials said a proliferation of these wells is behind the recent earthquake spike in Oklahoma and south-central Kansas.
More than 5,000 temblors strong enough for people to feel have struck Kansas and Oklahoma since 2008. Flint Hills residents said that Quail Oil & Gas, the company behind the newly approved Strong City well, will dump up to 5,000 barrels of wastewater a day and ultimately trigger quakes.
The KCC decision has residents planning to seek regulatory changes through the Kansas Legislature.
Hoedel said she’s concerned no state agency is tasked with proactively guarding the state, its residents and property owners against activities that cause earthquakes. She and other residents argued the KCC only limited wastewater disposal in south-central Kansas after temblors grew frequent.
“We don’t find it a satisfactory answer to drill, cause damage and then try to mitigate the damage,” she said.
In May, 30 state legislators wrote to the KCC about Quail’s Morris County well. Lawmakers urged the commission to “err on the side of caution.”
“Man-induced earthquakes are a relatively new phenomenon,” lawmakers wrote. “What is the tipping point of risk?”