OKLAHOMA — A grassroots organization is now calling for a moratorium on the use of disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.
The group, called The Coalition to Stop Induced Seismicity, is asking for the procedure to stop temporarily in 16 counties across Oklahoma.
One problem seems to be nobody knows exactly who has the power to issue a moratorium.
Those calling for the moratorium say it’s up to the governor, but her office says, legally, she cannot make that call.
Meanwhile, those in the industry say a complete halt would cost the state tens of millions of dollars every month.
Angela Spotts, with Stop Fracking Payne County and the new coalition, said, “What is it going to take from someone to take action?”
She and others are trying to fight back against earthquakes, heading Monday to the governor’s office to deliver a petition and to ask her to take action.
Earl Hatley, with the coalition, said, “It is up to the governor. She’s the executive.”
A spokesperson for Governor Fallin sent us this statement: “Governor Fallin cannot legally issue an executive order banning injection wells, nor can she issue a blanket moratorium.”
Her office points to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The commission is tasked with regulating the wells.
But Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said, “It is our understanding that the commission does not have broad moratorium power.”
“We have a hot potato here. Nobody knows how to do a moratorium or wants to do a moratorium or says they have the authority. Who’s the executive here? ” Hatley said.
One of coalition’s allies is the NAACP. At Monday’s press conference, Anthony Douglas with the NAACP called this a civil rights issue. He compares today’s earthquakes to the 1930’s dust bowl.
“That was not nature made, that was man made,” Douglas said. “History doesn’t need to repeat itself.”
Kim Hatfield, with the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said, “We’re working to understand it, but a knee jerk reaction like they’re calling for is not something that will lead to a useful resolution.”
Hatfield agrees that a moratorium would actually cost the state tens of millions of dollars every month and added that it could put many out of work.
While he agrees a solution is needed, Hatfield says it shouldn’t come with such a heavy cost.
“We have to be able to balance the interests of all the parties and approach this in a rational manner,” Hatfield said.
State Representative Cory Williams, a democrat from Stillwater, has asked lawmakers to pass a bill implementing a moratorium in those 16 counties. He says the legislature does have that power.