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Fracking the Flint Hills?


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As a native Kansan (who lives next door now) I am screaming NO! right now.  can we please not gut the natural prairie of the Flint Hills?  The grasslands there is a vital part of the eco-structure that I seem to recall provide oxygen much like the rain forest does.  But no, let's haul oil out of it.  


Quail Oil and Gas, LC of Garden City has filed an application with the Kansas Corporation Commission for an injection well in Morris County.

According to the application, the well site is in the Arbuckle Formation. The surface elevation would be 1,399 feet, 2,762 feet for total well depth and 2,762 feet for plug back depth. The proposed site rests in the southwest portion of Morris County near Burdick — 14 miles as the crow flies from the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

An injection well is a device that places fluid deep underground into porous rock formations, such as sandstone or limestone, or into or below the shallow soil layer. The fluid may be water, wastewater, brine (salt water) or water mixed with chemicals.

According to the American Geosciences Institute, injection wells can be used for a variety of purposes, including hydraulic fracturing — which uses injection wells to increase the recovery of oil and natural gas. Other uses include the disposal of wastewater from the oil and gas industry including produced waters that are extracted with the oil and gas and flowback waters that return to the surface after hydraulic fracturing or disposal of hazardous or non-hazardous waste in deep rock formations.

The application was filed on Jan. 5 and since that time multiple residents have filed letters of protest with the Kansas Corporation Commission. As a result of those filings, a pre-hearing conference was held on Thursday — giving opponents an opportunity to provide testimony.

“What is happening today is actually a pre-hearing conference,” Director of Public Affairs with the Kansas Corporation Commission Linda Berry said. “That is for parties who have filed a protest and will actually be providing testimony.”

A public hearing will be scheduled after the pre-hearing conference.

“There was a date discussed for the Evidentiary Hearing, but it must be approved by the Commission before it can be finalized and put on the calendar,” Berry said.

More than 20 letters of protest have been filed regarding the injection well application. Those who filed provided testimony on Thursday.

Sarah Uher, of rural Cottonwood Falls, submitted a letter of protest expressing concerns related to health and earthquakes.

“The health of my family and other residents of my community is my main concern,” Uher wrote. “We rely on well water and science bears out that this will eventually contaminate not only that, but the rivers, creeks and ponds that we enjoy recreationally.”

Thomas Thompson of Strong City also expressed concerns about earthquakes.

“Most induced earthquakes in the United States are a result of the deep disposal of fluids (wastewater) related to oil and gas production,” Thompson wrote. “It is possible for the toxins in these fluids to leach into groundwater and drinking water sources. Seismicity can be induced at distances of 10 kilometers or more away from the injection point and at significantly greater depths than injection. The site of the proposed injection well is within that proximity to several freshwater springs.

“All companies that wish to inject wastewater into the ground should be required to carry liability insurance that covers damages to property from induced earthquakes. I have earthquake insurance on my property, but it carries a large deductible. This year we had an earthquake that shook the house that originated in Oklahoma.”

The application has also drawn the attention of concerned Kansans throughout the state. Jody Drake of Merriam is opposing the injection well application.

“I am concerned by the possible toxins in these fluids leaching into groundwater and drinking water,” Drake said.

“I worry about the increase of seismic activity to our area, our property and the land of Little Jerusalem recently purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Kansas,” Lisa Schmitz of Kansas City said.

James Aber, geology expert and distinguished professor at Emporia State University, said the location of the proposed injection well raises serious concerns for its potential to induce earthquakes along one or more known faults in the area.

“The site directly overlies a buried basement uplift known as Nemaha Ridge, which is flanked on its eastern side by the Humboldt Fault zone with multiple, parallel faults trending generally north-northeast,” Aber said. “Faults of the Humboldt zone have been active historically.”

The U.S. Geological Survey has concluded wastewater disposal is the primary cause of the recent increase in earthquakes in the central United States. Additionally, the organization advises such earthquakes can occur at distances of 10 miles or more from the injection site as fluids migrate underground. This would make all of southern Morris and northern Chase counties at risk for induced earthquakes regardless of the exact location or depth of wastewater injection.

Results of ongoing, multi-year research on induced earthquakes by the U.S. Geological Survey published in 2015 suggested most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma, such as the 1952 magnitude 5.5 El Reno earthquake, may have been induced by deep injection of wastewater by the oil industry.

To follow the case, go to kcc.ks.gov and select Docket Filings in the left navigation box. The docket number for the case is 17-CONS03484-CUIC.

Requests for comment from Quail Oil and Gas have not been returned.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly defined "fracking."



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How awful, Unfortunately, I think that by the tangerine toddler is out of office, we'll be lucky to have any natural areas left in the US.

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This also means an increased chance of earthquakes in a part of the country that earthquakes are not natural for.  (for example see northern Oklahoma)

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I can't even imagine what it must be like for a community to chance losing its clean drinking water, etc., because of fracking.  And the fracking-related earthquakes around Oklahoma are another unacceptable side effect.  The US Geological Society has some good maps on the earthquake activity (I see the organization referenced in the article above).

I was just thinking the other day, reading about the evisceration of the EPA, how thankful I was that our air quality has improved so dramatically in the past decades due to increased regulation and compliance.  Now, thinking about how our current administration wants to roll back environmental standards, I can't help being evil and thinking a few smudge pots strategically arranged around Trump properties might be a good reminder of what we've gained and might stand to lose.  (Note to Secret Service, I am joking, so do not show up at my door.)

On another note (my career has included stints working with environmental agencies, so I have lots of notes, lol), here is an article on coal ash storage.  We were in a community far downstream of this, but it caused great concern when it occurred, and it could happen anywhere:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_Fossil_Plant_coal_fly_ash_slurry_spill

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