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HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Fracking Water Lines Spark Controversy in Northwest Oklahoma

Joe Wertz
State Impact Oklahoma

Fracking requires water, and temporary water lines snake across a lot of northwest Oklahoma to feed the beasts pulling oil and gas from the Mississippi Lime Shale.  It’s one of the state’s most productive plays, but landowners are irritated with the lines on their property that block gates, mailboxes, driveways, show up without warning, and can’t be driven over because the stiff plastic pipe catches and drags according to State Impact Oklahoma. 

Drilling companies contend they are a public utility, which allows them to lay the water lines in the public right of way on top of the ground.

Randy McMurphy, the District 2 Commissioner in Woods County, where the controversy started, disagrees.  He says the  purpose of the lines is for private gain.  

McMurphy says county officials alone can’t authorize the water lines.  He added a stipulation to his district’s permit that permission had to be obtained from the land owner before pipes could be laid.

Since that addition, several layers of controversy have been added.  Oil companies are complaining.  The Association of County Commissioners say the change is contrary to the state statue requiring county commissioners to vote as a board on changes.  The Woods County assistant district attorney approved the permit change, which gave a stamp of final approval.  Prominent northwest Oklahoma landowners filed a class action suit against energy giants—Sandridge and Chesapeake—over water lines they say were laid without permission or financial compensation.  

There is discussion of a new state law to clear up the issue, but until then Shirley Ranch foreman Brandon McCarney says landowners can solve the problem.

“If you don’t get it buried, we’re going to take a chainsaw to it,” he says.