GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 38-10
Presentation Time: 4:35 PM


BUCHANAN, Rex C., Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas, 1930 Constant Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66047-3724 and HOFFMAN, Ryan A., Oil and Gas Conservation Division, Kansas Corporation Commission, 266 N. Main, Suite 220, Wichita, KS 67202,

The midcontinent has witnessed a dramatic increase in seismic activity, beginning in 2010 in Arkansas, then in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, and south-central Kansas. Much of that increase has been linked to deep-well disposal of saltwater produced along with oil and gas, which triggered the movement of critically stressed faults in basement rock. In addition to significant scientific challenges, midcontinent induced seismicity has created legal challenges for both the agencies that regulate underground injection and the non-regulatory organizations, such as state geological surveys, that provide monitoring, modeling, and subsurface information related to the issue. Those legal issues are different for each state, but generally include responding to open-records requests and complying with open-meetings requirements, both of which may be unfamiliar to non-regulatory organizations. State regulatory agencies have also examined their jurisdictional grants to determine the appropriate avenue for responding to induced seismicity concerns. In addition, induced seismicity in the midcontinent has raised questions about liability. At least two lawsuits have been filed against energy companies in state court in Oklahoma related to a M 5.6 event near Prague in 2011. A larger class action suit against oil companies was filed in federal court Oklahoma in 2016. Induced seismicity has thus raised questions of legal liability in addition to reminding regulatory and non-regulatory organizations about the need to be cognizant of open-meeting requirements and to understand the intricacies of open-records requests.