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Oklahoma vs. Sandridge Energy: State plans legal action after company refused to shut down 6 wells

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OKLAHOMA -- There's a legal battle between the state of Oklahoma and one of the largest oil companies in Oklahoma.

The state has asked Sandridge Energy to shut down six wells in the Medford/Cherokee area. But the company is refusing to follow recommendations.

Directives like this began in March of 2015.

The goal of the Corporation Commission is to help reduce the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. But for the first time, they're planning to take legal action against a company that refused to comply.

"We still have fires burning, and we're trying to get ahead of those fires, but we're not there yet," Matt Skinner, with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, in an interview back in November.

"A year ago, we didn't have all these shut ins, we didn't have all these things we're doing, and largely, we didn't have the knowledge to do them," Skinner said.

But with more knowledge has come more action.

In a letter sent out Dec. 2, Sandridge, along with other companies including Chesapeake and Eagle Exploration, were ordered to reduce waste water disposal or shut their wells down all together.  Sandridge refused to shut down six wells.

"I think it was a really interesting response to a number of directives the Corporation Commission has given," Sarah Terry-Cobo, with The Journal Records, has been covering the industry for months.

"Sandridge isn't the first one that has protested, but they're the ones that have had the largest effect, the largest impact so far," Terry-Cobo said.

She says Sandridge dominates a large area in northern Oklahoma.

"They have about 40 percent in Alfalfa, in a nine mile radius in Alfalfa county, where a lot of these earthquakes have happened of course," Terry-Cobo said.

We tried reaching Sandridge for comment, but like many oil companies, they've been very tight-lipped on the issue. They've also been named in an intent to sue from the Sierra Club in federal court. 

Perhaps there is a changing tide for how the state wants to help regulate earthquakes?

"An indication of what the state is trying to do in order to reduce the number of earthquakes is do everything they can is reduce the number of waste water that goes into these wells," Terry-Cobo said.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission would not comment on Sandridge Energy's refusal, saying they have pending litigation.

They would confirm, however, that OCC oil and gas division's attorneys are preparing court action.