Several new rules implemented by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission affecting the state’s oil and gas industry went into effect on August 1. According to OCC spokesman Matt Skinner, the changes were part of a collaborative effort that included all stakeholders.
“All rule-making involves input from all stakeholders,” he said. “That ranges, of course, from industry to the general public. The bottom line is that the staff, in developing rules, tries to work as closely as possible with stakeholders.”
Rule revisions include the addition of a physical boundary around underground storage reservoirs in an effort to protect tanks from horizontal drilling. Also, companies will now be required to obtain separate permits for each horizontal drilling project as opposed to having one permit per well site, as had been the case. Third, protesters must file a notice of protest with the local county clerk’s office if they plan to demonstrate. This protects operators from losing valuable time dealing with invalid protests.
The Corporation Commission also established the rules governing the new law that penalizes railroad companies whose equipment blocks a crossing for more than 10 minutes. With the increase of oil and gas production experienced over the past decade, train traffic in the state has increased substantially. There are 24 railroad companies operating in the Sooner State covering 4,100 public, at-grade crossings.
The law was passed after numerous incidents occurred where roadways were blocked for extended amounts of time, including one in April when a train in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, blocked a crossing for 24 hours. Emergency responders have also been prevented from providing aide to residents in a timely manner due to blocked train crossings. In some instances, emergency personnel have been required to drive 20 miles or more out of the way to respond to an emergency. Oklahoma residents are encouraged to call 911 if a train blocks a crossing for an unreasonable amount of time.
These companies, which face a fine from $1,000 to $10,000 per incident, will have the opportunity to defend themselves in front of the commission after citations are issued. Revenues generated from the fines will be shared between the issuing law enforcement agency and the Corporation Commission.