Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Davidson: Many Challenges Await Oil, Gas Regulators

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Davidson: Many Challenges Await Oil, Gas Regulators

Article excerpt

By Ronda Fears Journal Record Staff Reporter Oil and gas regulation has come a long way, but the future holds many challenges for regulators, said departing Oklahoma Corporation Commission Oil and Gas Director C.D. "Jack" Davidson.

There are scares of reclassification of oil field wastes as hazardous wastes, for instance, but Davidson said he thinks that prospect is remote due to the economic impact on both the industry and consumers.

Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that oil field wastes remain unclassified, but environmental groups continue to pressure Congress about the issue.

Davidson is retiring after five years as top staff regulator of the oil and gas industry at the state agency. He took his position in January 1986. He announced last week that he plans to resign in the first half of 1992.

Most of the oil and gas pollution problems in Oklahoma, as in other states, stem from antiquated industry practices that have been strengthened and streamlined, Davidson said. For instance, years ago wells were plugged by crude methods such as with railroad ties or tree stumps. Now, more sophisticated and safer measures are taken, and state regulators oversee the process.

"We've accomplished a lot in the past five years to improve oil and gas regulation for the public, the industry and the state," he said.

"I'm convinced we are as effective as anyone can be in handling current pollution problems, but we have a lot of old pollution problems to deal with because of less stringent rules in the past.

"For example, it used to be that an operator who damaged the land could terminate his liability by paying the landowner for damages. If the landowner decided to use the money for something else, the pollution problem remained.

"Now, operators are directly responsible for cleanup. But, that still leaves us with a lot of old saltwater scars and other damage, and it is impossible to determine who is responsible." Oklahoma has taken the lead in oil and gas regulation throughout history. It was the first state to prorate oil production back in the 1930s. It began the first state-funded plugging program to keep old purging wells that had been abandoned by operators from seeping into freshwater reservoirs. …

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