For nearly thirty years, a generalized environmental assessment was used in the process of approving oil and gas leases in Osage County, Oklahoma. In late 2015, rulings entered in Hayes v Chaparral Energy, LLC (U.S.D.C., N.D. Okla. 14-CV-495-GKF-PJC) rejected this approach, describing it as overly broad, outdated and not in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and declared Osage County lease and drilling permits void ab initio. The effect of this ruling was to require site-specific environmental assessments. This paper explores a methodology for making site specific assessments of the vulnerability of soils to injury from releases of oilfield brine, a source of substantial environmental injury to soils. The methodology examined known areas of oilfield brine injury mapped as “oilfield wasteland” (brine scars) in the Osage County Soil Survey by examining how these areas evolved over time and relating the evolution and persistence of these areas to published quantitative data available for contiguous soils and other environmental information. The study found that the best predictor of the persistence of the surface expression of a brine scar was sand content, with soils having high sand content having the least persistent scars.
J. Berton Fisher, IMMIX, LLC, Tulsa, OK