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1,000-plus Injection Well Notices In Kansas Listed Too-Short Protest Periods

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KCUR 89.3
A saltwater injection well in Oklahoma. Applications for similar wells in Kansas listed 15-day protest periods when they should have allowed the public 30 days to object.

Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period. Instead, regulators found that 1,007 applications connected to more than 2,000 wells came with public notices alerting people to just 15-day periods.

That means almost a quarter of the applications received during that time led people to believe they had half the alloted time to register their objections.

Kansas has more than 16,000 wastewater injection wells. The wells are used to dispose of what’s left over from extracting oil and gas. It’s mostly saltwater, but it can also contain chemicals.

Matfield Green resident Cindy Hoedel was the first to suggest to the Kansas Corporation Commission that there was a problem. She discovered the issue when preparing to protest against a well, and at first, didn’t realize anything was wrong about a 15-day period. The list she used, which only went back about four months, only had about 25 incorrect notices. She says she never expected the total to be so high.

She also says all those well owners should be forced to give people another chance to protest.

“The applications did not comply with the regulations that are on the books,” she said. “And they should be shut down and they should have to reapply.”

The KCC is considering what action to take in wake of the investigation.

Since 2002, only contested wastewater injection well applications got a formal hearing. All others were either approved or denied by KCC staff.

Only three of the applications on the incorrect notice list received a hearing.

Brian Grimmett, based at KMUW in Wichita, is a reporter focusing on the environment and energy for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

I seek to find and tell interesting stories about how our environment shapes and impacts us. Climate change is a growing threat to all Kansans, both urban and rural, and I want to inform people about what they can expect, how it will change their daily lives and the ways in which people, corporations and governments are working to adapt. I also seek to hold utility companies accountable for their policy and ratemaking decisions. Email me at grimmett@kmuw.org.
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