News Feature | February 27, 2014

Fracking Water Pipelines Garner Legal Scrutiny

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A practice oil and gas companies use to transport water for fracking is attracting legal scrutiny. 

"To get their water, energy companies lay temporary pipelines atop private property," NPR reported. "But a county commissioner and a class-action lawsuit are raising questions about the common practice."

What is that common practice, exactly? NPR explained: "To unlock the oil and gas trapped in tight shale formations like this, oil and gas producers pump in millions of gallons of pressurized water. To bring freshwater in, and move waste fluid out, the industry strings miles of temporary plastic pipe along the side of the road." 

But in Oklahoma, officials are questioning the legality of these pipelines. The pipelines run across land owned by private citizens, but counties have the right to use pieces of that land—specifically, the counties use strips of land along the sides of roads, the report said.  Public utilities often make use of those areas for pipelines. 

Oil companies use these strips, as well.  "Oil companies fill out a permit, pay the county a fee — $250 per mile is standard — and lay the temporary water lines in the counties’ [strips of land]," the report said. 

Now, officials are questioning if that should be allowed. For instance, Randy McMurphy, the District 2 Commissioner in Woods County, said to NPR: “[The practice] is not considered a public utility. It’s for private gain. Anything that’s not a public utility or has to do with public transportation needs to have the permission of the abutting landowner and the commissioner.”

The issue began to heat up last spring. That's when McMurphy stipulated that, in his jurisdiction, energy providers need the permission of landowners before they construct new water lines on the side of county roads, the report said. 

"McMurphy says oil companies complained about his permit change," the report said. 

The issue is in court, as well. "Several prominent landowners in northwest Oklahoma share Commissioner McMurphy’s reading of the law. In March 2013, they filed a class-action lawsuit against a pair of Oklahoma energy giants — Sandridge and Chesapeake — over water lines they say were laid without permission or financial compensation," according to the report. 

Water pipelines installed on the side of the roads are a key way oil and gas companies transport water for the fracking process. "Pipelines are less costly than trucking," the Associated Press explained

Interested in fracking? Check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center

Image credit: "Oklahoma Sunrise," © 2008 Dare*2*Dream, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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