Journal Record Staff Reporter The odds of stricter federal
environmental regulations in the oilpatch are greater than ever, but
states need to consolidate regulatory efforts and the industry
should respond early, oil and gas executives were told Tuesday.
Environmental issues took center stage Tuesday at the annual
meeting of the Oklahoma-Kansas Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association
in Oklahoma City. Scheduled highlights today will be Arkoma Basin
development and natural gas deliverability.
Last year, there were 37 years of prison terms handed down by
the Environmental Protection Agency for violations in the oilpatch
plus $11 million in fines imposed, said Jim Collins, conservation
engineer for Arco Oil & Gas Co. of Dallas.
Comparatively, in 1984, fines totaled $200,000 and two years of
prison time was imposed by EPA.
"Five years ago it really wasn't that hot of a topic," said
Collins, who is also chairman of the American Petroleum Institute
committee on environmental conservation.
"It's getting the attention of our corporate management, and
they see this trend increasing."
Hence, the industry has to develop ways to address environmental
"The industry itself is losing the trust of the regulatory
groups with the way we handle our waste," said Tom Baker,
environmental engineer with Arco.
"Proper waste management itself is good business. If we are
managing our waste in a strategic manner, we are doing good business
for the industry."
Baker detailed a strategy for developing a waste management plan
designed for a specific area to respond to the myriad of state
agencies and federal regulators that are increasing in numbers. He
suggested that compliance above and beyond regulations be targeted,
if for no other reason than to mitigate corporate liability.
"The EPA study of production waste exemptions found that one of
the problems with E&P (exploration and production) waste was lack of
enforcement," said Collins.
"So you can be sure that over the next few years, as EPA has an
effect on state programs, which is going to happen, there will be
higher levels of enforcement.
Oklahoma, along with other states, already has been asked by EPA
to designate one agency to regulate discharges into water, said
Brita Haugland-Cantrell, an assistant Oklahoma attorney general.
Currently, there are seven agencies in Oklahoma that have been
given some type of statutory authority to regulate discharges into
water, she said. And, the state Pollution Control Coordinating
Board does not have the clear directive to assign jurisdiction to
one agency, she added. The heads of the seven agencies in question
and three citizen members make up the coordinating board.
"There are so many individual interests represented in that one
group (Pollution Control Coordinating Board), that it's amazing that
it does the job it does," Haugland-Cantrell said. …