Kingfisher Co. residents meet with state agencies over ground water concerns, oil and gas production

KINGFISHER, Okla. - Roughly 50 people filled a room at the public library Thursday evening to ask questions of several state agencies about what recourse residents and land owners have to ensure their ground water is protected and concerns when it comes to oil and gas companies using ground and surface water for the booming production in the state.

Residents have growing concerns of the over-pumping of ground water from wells on private land that is then sold to oil and gas companies. Farmers, ranchers and residents say normally free-flowing creeks are now nothing more than a trickle. But the larger concern is tapping aquifers for use in the oil and gas production and hydraulic fracturing.

For two hours, numerous questions flowed freely from residents, directed to several state agency officials tasked with water quality, environmental protection and oil and gas regulation.

"We have children that want to inherit (the land), and their children," said Francene Eaton, who lives west of Cashion. "And if they don't have water and the ability for cattle and domestic use, what are they going to do?"

Many asked officials with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Corporation Commission what legislative recourse of action should they pursue to ensure that "gray areas" in the law can be changed to assuage their own concerns about the viability of their land for both present and future agricultural and domestic use.

Some of the concerns brought up include the storage of water that's the byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, collection of surface water from elsewhere in the county to then store the water over a ground water aquifer, and the purchasing of private land to then sell the water from wells to oil and gas companies.

"People are getting fat rich selling water for oil and gas drilling," said one man, who didn't want to be named as he works in the oil and gas industry.

Officials with the state agencies admitted that there are gray areas in the law when it comes to what can and cannot be enforced, regulated or dictated, based on state statutes and the jurisdiction of the agencies themselves. When asked what residents can do, officials said what was being done this evening was the right step to raise awareness and to contact your legislators.

"If you guys know that these 'gray areas' are here," said the man who didn't want to be identified. "Do ya'll call some of the legislators and say, 'Hey, can we sit down and fix this stuff?' And why hasn't more been done?"

One lawmaker was in attendance, State Sen. Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, who echoed the sentiment of the agency officials that said the oil and gas "technology often outpaces" state regulations.

"We want to co-exist with them," said Kim Degust, who is one of the organizers of the Kingfisher Ground Water Action Group. "And it sounds like they have other sources of water. So let us have the ground water that we need, and there needs to be more protection so it's not contaminated."