Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Panel Levies $385,000 Fine for Disposal Well Blowout

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Panel Levies $385,000 Fine for Disposal Well Blowout

Article excerpt

By Ronda Fears

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A $385,000 fine has been levied against Southern Management Inc. stemming from the blowout of a salt water disposal well near Hammond in Roger Mills County.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission found the company violated four commission rules, including 72 counts of illegal disposal of industrial wastewater. The order was issued Tuesday. A threey hearing was held in midgust regarding the May 5 blowout.

Included in the total levy was a fine of $5,000 per violation for each of the illegal disposal counts; $5,000 for failure to notify the commission of a mechanical integrity in the well; $5,000 for improper testing of the well; and, $5,000 for each of three days in which an unpermissible pit was operated at the well site after the blowout.

All were maximum fines under commission rules, which take the force of law and must be approved by the state legislature.

"I'm really happy that they imposed the maximum fine," said Earl Hatley of the National Toxics Campaign, a grassroots environmental group that took interest in the case.

"That at least shows the seriousness of the violations. I'm also pleased that the commission acted in the fashion they did. I don't know if they would have acted as timely and as justly as they did without the media attention and a packed courtroom. I'm not going to judge that."

The well has been plugged by the commission for $88,700 with state funds levied from oil and gas producers in the state. The commission is seeking to recoup those costs along with soil and water remediation and site reclamation from Southern Management and other parties involved, including an insurance company.

Total cleanup cost is estimated at about $489,000 by commission staff. Hopefully, the site will be cleaned up within a matter of a few weeks, commission staff said.

Regardless of the cleanup cost, Hatley said the commission fines pale in comparison to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fines. They should be higher, he said, particularly against the "bad actors" involved.

Other action has been taken against Southern Management and other parties involved in the interim of cleanup. …

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