Monday, August 20, 2012

Cockroft Column: Dealing with Seismic Operators

I have heard from numerous constituents about their frustrations over seismic operators who are entering private property amd causing extensive damage without providing proper compensation for that damage. The damage quickly becomes a financial and logistical headache for the property owner. After looking into the matter, I wanted to pass on information that may be helpful to those of you dealing with this problem.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has had rules in place that dictate the procedures which each seismic company must follow for entry, as well as the customary amount paid to surface owners for damage done to the surface owners’ property. The rules state that payment shall range from $5 to $15 per acre. This has always been the typical fee. The rules also state that the company doing the exploration is responsible for excessive damages. Until this year, these rules haven't been in state statute.    

I understand the frustration of a land owner who is having problems with a seismic company trying to encroach on their property and causing extensive damage. I also know that seismic companies sometimes apply tremendous pressure on landowners to comply with their demands for seismic exploration. The $5-15 they provide per acre can seem like a pittance in the face of the damage incurred.

I would advise individuals facing such problems to contact the seismic company in question and inquire as to which company has hired them to do the seismic drilling. Once you obtain the name of the company, then contact them. It is in the best interest of the energy company who hires the seismic exploration company to make sure all disputes are settled. I have talked to several energy companies and have found that they want to do what is best for everyone, especially landowners. They understand that the seismic exploration is a great inconvenience and want to make it right if damage occurs. That’s just good business. They hire the seismic companies, so they want to make sure it is done right and everyone is happy.

If the energy company doesn’t fix the problem, I would contact the Corporation Commission next. I have spoken with Donna Darnell, who is the Oil & Gas Complaints Manager at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. She is the liaison between you and the energy companies and is always available at (405) 521-2613.  In most cases, disputes are easily settled by arbitration. It is almost always handled without involving an attorney.

I would urge you to use this process to approach the problem. If I can be of further assistance, please call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7349.

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