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Fracking Site Operator Faces Contempt Complaint After Acid Spill

Workers clean up an acid spill in Kingfisher County.
Joe Wertz
StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator filed a contempt complaint this week against the company overseeing a hydraulic fracturing operation in an oil field where 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled.

The spill could be the state’s largest related to fracking, says Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner.

The complaint, which accuses the operator of failing to prevent pollution, a violation of state oil and gas rules, directed Blake Vernon, the president of Blake Production Company, to appear before an administrative law judge on Sept. 10.

The complaint, embedded below, was filed by a field inspector for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Vernon did not immediately return a call asking for comment.

The landowner on July 28 reported the spill at an oil and gas well near Hennessey in northwestern Oklahoma’s Kingfisher County. Oil-field workers told state inspectors that a malfunctioning flange had caused 480 barrels of hydrochloric acid — a chemical commonly used in oil and gas production — to leak into an adjoining alfalfa field, according to the Corporation Commission’s investigative report.

An environmental cleanup crew neutralized the acid and built berms around the contaminated area to prevent runoff from entering a nearby creek, the report shows. About 1,600 yards of contaminated soil will likely have to be removed from the site, says the commission’s Skinner.

StateImpact Oklahoma has the complaint.


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Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state. He previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly arts and entertainment correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla. and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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