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Wichita — Cindy Hoedel and Scott Yeargain, who live in or near the Kansas Flint Hills, began looking into oil and gas operations near their homes as early as 2016.

The two, separately, worried about earthquakes and water quality issues that new wastewater injection wells would create.

Hoedel documented a few dozen instances where injection well permit applications didn’t follow Kansas Corporation Commission guidelines. That led to a KCC report identifying more than 1,000 similar cases.

One morning after the next, semi-trailer trucks get off Interstate 70 near Colby in west-central Kansas.

They haul parts of giant wind turbines in 150-foot-long sections, the pieces to the Solomon Forks wind farm and the next monumental phase of the Kansas bet on wind energy. The farm will plant 105 turbines in the prairie, each towering 250 feet high.

The project is one of a wave of wind farms under construction in Kansas that will add 20 percent more electrical generation to the state’s output.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Not gonna hear it

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it would not consider a case involving Planned Parenthood and the state of Kansas.

That means Kansas and Louisiana can still decide which medical providers appear competent enough to take on Medicaid patients.

But more notably, states’ power to exclude a clinic on other grounds — if, for instance, it provides abortion services — are limited.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Fill ’er up

Pavement wears down at the same rate whether the cars and trucks rolling over it rely on internal combustion engines for locomotion or on new-fangled hybrid and electric motors.

Yet Kansas, like most other states, relies on gasoline taxes for much of the cost of building its roads and keeping them in reasonable shape.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Why not Wyandotte

Wyandotte County has long represented undeveloped political muscle for Kansas Democrats. Lots of Democrats there. Not nearly as many Democrats who show up to vote.

Mobilizing that potential could, maybe, mean trouble for incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, whose district includes both Wyandotte and Johnson counties. And in close statewide races (think this year’s contest for governor), a big turnout in Kansas City, Kansas, could be a gamechanger.

New research out of Stanford University shows that limiting wastewater injection is helping to prevent man-made earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The researchers have created a new physics-based model that can better predict where man-made earthquakes will occur by looking at increases in pressure. The model shows that the number of earthquakes is driven by how much wastewater is being injected into the ground.

To be an oil person in Kansas is to understand that bad times follow good and that betting on any dip or upswing is a game for suckers.

Yet it can be so tempting when crude prices soar. There’s so much money to be made.

Or, of course, lost.

The booming calls of the lesser prairie chicken once rung out across western Kansas.

Accounts from the 1800s mention bands of hunters bagging dozens of birds each. Railways advertised special trains that brought sportsmen to shoot the birds in the Texas panhandle, complete with ice cars to preserve the meat on the ride home.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

A decade ago, Kansans felt an earthquake once every few years. Now ground tremors come regularly. One of the hardest hit areas is Harper County in the south central part of the state.

It’s no coincidence, scientists and state regulators agree, that Harper and Sumner counties are also where massive amounts of wastewater has been pumped below ground by outfits drilling for oil and natural gas.

file photo / KCUR 89.3

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.

Kansas Geological Survey

Zack Pistora of the Kansas Sierra Club was worried about the number of earthquakes in the state and wanted to do something about it.

“Those earthquakes can cause damage to people’s homes, businesses, public buildings,” he said. “Right now there’s no recourse for those Kansans who get affected.”

When it comes to fighting for a cause, some may picture protestors chaining themselves to machinery or going on hunger strikes. But a former journalist in Kansas fought a proposal for saltwater injection wells in a different way: she read a lot of documents and examined the tiny administrative details.

Then: two area researchers on how dogs and humans became friends, then an encore presentation of how a local musician found one family's long-lost Christmas tape at a thrift store.

Guests:

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency will investigate nearly a decade’s worth of permits it granted to oil and gas companies after learning recently that some wells received permits without meeting certain state regulations.

The probe, announced Tuesday, will determine the number of wells approved since 2008 without the companies giving nearby residents accurate information about their rights to protest the wells.

U.S. Geological Survey

Saltwater injection. Fracking. Enhanced oil recovery.

News of protests in recent months against oil- and gas-related activity in the Flint Hills has drawn fresh attention to these and other terms — as well as some confusion.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency is trying to determine why permits were issued for half a dozen wastewater wells whose operators didn’t accurately inform nearby residents of their rights to protest the wells.

The deficiencies were discovered by a resident of Matfield Green in Chase County who objects to the wells, into which companies can pour hundreds or thousands of barrels of oil- and gas-related wastewater per day.

Cindy Hoedel wants the Kansas Corporation Commission to shut down the wells and make the companies in question redo the application process.

Courtesy Kansas Geological Survey

The governments of Douglas County and Lawrence are calling for changes to Kansas regulations amid an energy company’s proposal to pump wastewater into wells in rural Eudora.

Among their concerns, the local officials argue that the public deserves a 60-day protest period — twice as long as the current allowance — when companies seek to operate such wells in or near their communities.

Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said the goal is “good public process.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The fight over an oil-related waste disposal well in Kansas’ Flint Hills has broadened into a campaign to protest similar wells across several counties and lobby lawmakers for regulatory changes.

Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoman Collection / Doubleday

Even suave people blunder a bit here and there, but research suggests those weird traits have some advantages. Today, we look at the science behind social awkwardness. Then, we learn how vast new oil wealth among Oklahoma's Osage tribe engendered a heart-rending greed that led to a series of murders in the 1920s, and helped the fledgling FBI make a name for itself.

Sarah Craig/Faces of Fracking / Flickr - CC

While scientists have gained a clearer understanding of what's causing recent earthquakes in the Great Plains, they haven't reached a point where people can let their guard down. That's according to Heather DeShon, associate professor and seismologist at Southern Methodist University.

"The earthquakes in Oklahoma and parts of Kansas ... have been linked to a process called wastewater injection," she says.

In that process, large volumes of salty, briny water are deposited into cavities in deep rock layers, says DeShon.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM / Flickr Creative Commons

Earthquakes in the Central U.S. have been steadily increasing due to oil production, gas extraction and disposal of wastewater. Seismologist Heather DeShon tells us if it is possible to mitigate the number of occurrences. Then, finding political common ground between parties. Mark Gerzon, president of the Mediators Foundation, explores cross-party cooperation in his most recent book, The Reunited States of America.

Sam Valadi / Flickr - CC

As the Dow Jones Industrial Average edges closer to 20,000 points, the Smart Money Experts share advice on how to respond to record highs in all three major stock indices.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Last week's election left one notorious glass ceiling intact. So what does that mean for local women, and women in government?

Plus, it's National Day of Action against the Dakota Access Pipeline. How might the proposed North Dakota pipeline impact our indigenous communities, and general populous, here in Kansas City?

Guests:

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of people, many of Native American heritage, gathered at Berkley Riverfront Park on Sunday to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  

They joined protesters across the country standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota. The tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violating the National Historic Preservation Act, after the agency issued final permits for a massive crude oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois.

Increased oil production in America and greater demand to move petroleum across the continent has increased the risk of devastating accidents, like the 2013 explosion in Quebec that took 47 lives. We explore what makes these “rolling pipelines” so dangerous and what’s being done to minimize that risk.

Guests:

Earthquakes are more frequent than ever in Oklahoma, and they're hitting harder. KCUR's Frank Morris visits Kansas's neighbor to the South and gets perspectives and stories from those directly affected by the situation. Is the cornerstone of that state's economy shaking its foundation?

Oil And America's Foreign Relations

Jul 15, 2013
Jay Hakes / JayHakes.com

 America has had a long and complicated history with foreign oil, with a specific impact on our political relationships abroad.

Tuesday on Up To Date, we're joined by Jay Hakes to discuss the role that oil has played in our foreign relations. He’s an energy analyst and director of the Carter Presidential Library and Museum and the author of a book about what freedom from foreign oil can do for our country. 

Gas & Oil Exploration In Kansas

Jan 29, 2013
David R. Tribble

PLEASE NOTE: This show was recorded on January 14.

The oil and gas industry is seeing a slew of booms all over the country—in North Dakota, Texas, and now in southern Kansas. The key: How much can be retrieved from something called the Mississippi Line Formation in south-central Kansas.

More hospitals in Missouri are giving away care, and oil and gas companies insist they pay their fair share of taxes in Kansas.  It's a daily digest of headlines from KCUR.