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June 10, 2014

Code: Oil wells must be 600 feet from homes

NORMAN — Norman city staff confirmed Monday that oil and gas drilling operations must follow distance requirements based on existing city code. Those code provisions deal primarily with homes and water wells.

The city is currently examining its code regarding the location of oil and gas wells and whether to implement setbacks that will protect the watershed and surface water sources in Norman, in particular Lake Thunderbird and its tributaries.

“The state doesn’t have any setback requirements at all,” said Matt Skinner, Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman. “We have very strict requirements for well integrity and how and where you are allowed to drill based on underground water. The whole idea is to protect water.”

Surface water protection is required through controlling possible spills.

“We require berms and dikes to keep any spills contained within the well area,” Skinner said. “Those requirements can change, depending on what you’re protecting, but all well sites have to be bermed. Local municipalities may have their own requirements, as well.”

Setbacks are often established by local municipalities, he said.

Questions arose when an oil and gas well site was established on Franklin Road not far from the Moore Norman Technology Center. Little River, a tributary that feeds into Lake Thunderbird, runs through the 10.3 acres owned by Finley Resources.

Hydraulic fracturing at the site was completed recently. If the well is found to be commercially viable, production could begin soon.

Known as Little River No. 1-12H, the oil well site has spurred local debate on creating setbacks to protect surface water.

City ordinances outline basic requirements — including notification of nearby property owners, distance from homes, churches and schools, and distance from fresh water wells.

If someone’s property line lies within 300 feet of the outer perimeter of the well, the city requires that those property owners be notified before an oil and gas well is drilled.

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