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Kansas Regulators Approve Oil Company’s Flint Hills Injection Well Request

File Photo
Kansas News Service
During an August hearing, staff members from the Kansas Corporation Commission recommended the approval of an oil company's application for a saltwater injection well in the Flint Hills. The KCC issued an order Thursday approving the well.

Kansas energy regulators have given the green light for an oil company to dispose of production-related wastewater in the Flint Hills — a plan that had met with resistance from residents.

The Kansas Corporation Commission order issued Thursday says opponents didn’t show any “immediate danger to public health, safety or welfare” resulting from the well, which will inject saltwater about 2,700 feet into the earth at a site near Strong City and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. 

Flint Hills residents who oppose the well fear a risk of earthquakes if saltwater injection wells proliferate in their area. Oklahoma and south-central Kansas have seen a spike in temblors in recent years that the U.S. Geological Survey and other experts say resulted from the rise of saltwater injection there. 

Experts also say, however, that most saltwater injection wells are not linked to earthquakes. Whether wells cause temblors depends on a wide range of factors, including proximity to faults and other geological characteristics.

During a hearing last month, it appeared a compromise might occur in which energy regulators would give the southwest Kansas company, Quail Oil & Gas, permission to dump less fluid per day than it had requested. The compromise also would have reduced the amount of pressure the company could use to inject the wastewater down its well. 

The Kansas Corporation Commission ultimately rejected that option in addition to rejecting the Flint Hills residents’ call for blocking Quail Oil completely. The commissioners granted the company the right to dispose of up to 5,000 barrels per day at up to 500 pounds per square inch.

Bob Eye, an attorney representing Flint Hills residents opposed to the well, signaled Friday that they may press the matter further.

“We’re reviewing and determining whether an appeal is advisable,” Eye wrote in an email.

The petitioners have 15 days to appeal.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

I'm the creator of the environmental podcast Up From Dust. I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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