U.S. Fish and Wildlife Renews
Lesser Prairie Chicken Listing

Action Condemned by Kansas Senators and Representative​

Nov 17 2022

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Roger Marshall M.D. (R-Kan.) and Congressman Tracey Mann (KS-01) today condemned the Biden administration’s recent decision to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

“This decision threatens to place unnecessary restrictions on farmers, ranchers, and energy producers,” said Sen. Moran. “Kansas and surrounding states are committed to preserving the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat area and have contributed millions of public and private dollars to conservation efforts. This work has resulted in successfully conserving habitat area and increasing the population of the bird. The choice to list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened despite voluntary, locally-driven conservation efforts will negatively impact critical industries in Kansas and will remove any incentive for similar local efforts for wildlife conservation in the future.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement is disappointing and a reminder that this Administration favors government micromanagement of agriculture and heavy handed regulation in their war against energy producers instead of working with landowners to promote continued voluntary conservation efforts,” said Sen. Marshall. “Listing the lesser prairie chicken will hurt our state’s economy, hinder our oil and gas independence, increase utility costs, and prevent the development of renewable energy in prime Western Kansas locations.”

“In their final rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first commended landowners’ voluntary efforts to increase lesser prairie-chicken populations in Kansas, and then unilaterally decided that the federal government is better equipped to address these local areas,” said Rep. Mann. “This ruling is more than another example of federal overreach - it is a proxy war on American agriculture and energy sectors that are vital to our economy. Farmers, ranchers, and landowners are the original conservationists, and the federal government should get out of their way to let them do what they do best.”

Items to Note:

  • On May 21, 2021, Sens. Moran and Marshall joined their colleagues in urging U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to not list the LPC under the ESA.

  • On July 16, 2021, Sens. Moran and Marshall and Rep. Mann led a group of their colleagues in requesting a 90-day extension to the comment period for the proposed listing of the LPC.

EPA Methane Proposal Brief

The EPA hosted a webinar Monday, November 14, 2022, regarding a supplemental proposal they say will help reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production across the United States. The supplemental proposal is a modification of their November 2021 proposal, which met with significant criticism from the industry. The EPA received over 470,000 written comments on the 2021 proposal.

The revised proposal implements more common sense into the rule by tailoring requirements to various sectors of the industry. Rather than a "one size fits all" remedy for methane release inspections, EPA is proposing monitoring requirements for four categories of well sites:

  • Single wellhead-only sites and small well sites would be required to conduct what are known as "AVO" (audio, visual and olfactory) inspections, where inspectors listen, look and smell for leaks. These inspections would be required quarterly.

  • Wellhead-only sites with two or more wellheads would be required to conduct quarterly AVO inspections and monitor every six months using OGI or EPA Method 21.

  • Sites with major production and processing equipment and centralized production facilities would be required to conduct bimonthly AVO inspections and monitor quarterly using OGI or EPA Method 21.

  • Well sites on the Alaska North Slope would have different monitoring schedules to account for weather.

 

Guidance from the EPA will also allow states to implement their own plans, subject to review and approval from the EPA.

 

There will be an additional session November 30,2022, to examine the plan as it relates to small businesses. The webinar will be held from 3PM-5PM Central time. Pre-registration is required. Sign up here.

Links to the full document, as well as the summary, may be found at the following links:

EPA Oil and Gas Supplemental Overview                     EPA's Supplemental Oil and Gas Proposal

Election Update 

November 9, 2022 - The 2022 election day has come and gone with only a few surprises. Results are considered unofficial until the board of canvassers meets in December. Most races look to be decided, with only two significant races close enough not to be called on Election Night.

 

The night's big news, Governor Laura Kelly, looks to be winning reelection. According to unofficial results, Kelly led by 14,255 votes as of Wednesday morning with 49% of the votes compared to 48% for Schmidt with all precincts counted. Conservative state Sen. Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha had received 19573 votes, enough to tilt the race in Kelly’s favor, something many Republicans feared from when he first dropped his party affiliation and announced he was running for governor. The counting still won't be complete for several days. The state will still accept ballots postmarked by Tuesday for three days after the election. But since the third day this year falls on Veterans Day, ballots will be accepted through Monday.

In another major race this year, Kris Kobach pulled off a win that most did not expect. The tally early today of Kris Kobach against Lawrence Democrat Chris Mann was unofficially a difference of about 20,000 votes. Kobach is claiming the win, but Mann has not conceded, pending a final ballot count in the next few days.

Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Commissioner of Insurance Vicki Schmidt held onto their seats with a good size lead in their respective races. Republican Steven Johnson pulled out an upset over half-term and former Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers in the State Treasurer's race.

Kansas House Republicans appeared to have hung onto their supermajority Tuesday night despite seeing some of their members upset in Johnson County. According to unofficial results, the GOP lost three races in Johnson County but made gains elsewhere to hold an 85-seat supermajority in the House after Tuesday night's returns came in.

If you want to know more about specific races in your area, unofficial results can be found here https://ent.sos.ks.gov/kssos_ent.html#top

In the Federal races, the incumbents won their seats back. Including Democrat Sharice Davids, whose district was redrawn to make it more difficult for her reelection. However, she pulled 12% more votes than challenger Amanda Adkins. This was a seat the GOP was hoping to flip nationally. In the one Senate seat up for reelection this year, Senator Jerry Moran cruised to an easy win with 60% of the vote.

There were also two ballot measures on the statewide ballot this year. Voters appeared to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment proposal that would allow the Legislature by majority vote to override or reject administration rules and regulations to carry out a law passed by the Legislature. The vote was roughly 50-50, but with a 7,000-vote majority, that will likely be challenged. Voters also approved a constitutional amendment that would require sheriffs to be elected and restrict the melding of law enforcement agencies within counties. That measure was approved 62% to 38%.

Next, we look to the Kansas House leadership races which will be conducted in December. Several Republicans hoping to leave for Derek Schmidt's cabinet will now be eyeing the House leadership positions. We are expecting a significant shake-up in the committee leadership as well. Buckle in; now things get really interesting.

Legislative Update 

On Friday, April 9, Governor Laura Kelly signed HB 2022, the Abandoned Well Bill. EKOGA supported this bill and helped push it through the legislature. This is a great win for the industry. Below is a description of what is included in HB 2022.

Brief*

HB 2022 would amend law concerning the filing of complaints and investigations pertaining to abandoned wells, responsible parties for plugging abandoned wells, and funds used by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) for plugging abandoned wells.

Definitions

The bill would amend the definition of “well” to include “penetration of the surface of the earth.” In that definition, the bill would also amend the purpose of drilling a well to include providing cathodic protection to prevent corrosion to tanks or structures.

With regard to KCC investigations of abandoned wells, the bill would define “abandoned well” as a well that is not claimed on an operator’s license that is active with the KCC and is unplugged, improperly plugged, or no longer effectively plugged.

Filing of Complaints

The bill would amend the reasons to file a complaint with the KCC’s secretary to include abandoned wells that are causing or likely to cause:

  • Loss of any usable water;

  • Pollution of any usable water strata;

  • Imminent loss of any usable water; or

  • Imminent pollution of any usable water.

The bill would require the KCC to investigate such complaints and would also authorize the KCC to take appropriate action or issue any order according to the Kansas Administrative Procedure Act (KAPA).

Responsibility for Plugging Abandoned Wells

The bill would require the KCC to hold proceedings in accordance with KAPA if the KCC determines a well is abandoned and has reason to believe that a person is legally responsible for the proper care and control of such well. After such proceedings, the bill would allow the KCC to issue orders obligating a person to plug the well or to cause the well to be brought into compliance, if the KCC finds that such person is legally responsible.

The bill would limit persons that could be held legally responsible for proper care and control of an abandoned well to one or more of the following:

  • Any person, including any operator, causing pollution or loss of usable water through the well;

  • The most recent operator to produce from or inject or dispose into the well; however, if no production or injection has occurred, the person that caused the well to be drilled;

  • The person that most recently accepted responsibility for the well through written documentation that adequately identifies the well and expressly transfers responsibility for such well;

  • The operator that most recently filed a completed transfer report with the KCC in which such operator accepted responsibility for the well;

  • The operator that most recently plugged the well if no KCC funds were used; and

  • Any person that does any of the following to an abandoned well without KCC authorization:

    • Tampers with or removes surface or downhole equipment attached to the well;

    • Intentionally destroys, buries, or damages the well;

    • Intentionally alters the physical status of the well in such a way that will result in an increase in plugging costs; or

    • Conducts any physical operations upon the well.

The bill would also allow any person who has no obligation to plug, replug, or repair a well to seek reimbursement for plugging a well from the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Fund if such well has been abandoned for five or more years. The bill would require the KCC to promulgate rules and regulations for the reimbursement process.

The bill would state a person who plugs, replugs, or repairs an abandoned well shall not become legally responsible for the care and control of that well. The bill would allow any abandoned well to be plugged by any person if such person has written consent from a surface owner of the land upon which the well is located and if such person is licensed by the KCC in accordance with the KCC’s rules and regulations.

The bill would also clarify individuals would not be entitled to reimbursement for plugging of an abandoned well unless approved by the KCC.

Abolishing the Well Plugging Assurance Fund

The bill would amend law concerning funds used by the KCC to plug abandoned wells.

The bill would allow for the deposit of all moneys previously credited to the Well Plugging Assurance Fund to be credited to the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Fund, and the bill would remove the limitation of the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Fund to be used for the purpose of only investigating abandoned wells and well sites of which the drilling began before July 1, 1996.

The bill would transfer all moneys in and liabilities of the Well Plugging Assurance Fund to the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Fund and abolish the Well Plugging Assurance Fund on July 1, 2021.

The bill would also delete the transfers from the Conservation Fee Fund and the State General Fund to the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Fund.

Repealing an Interagency Agreement

The bill would repeal KSA 55-163, which pertains to an interagency agreement between the KCC and the Secretary of Health and Environment for the management plan for integrating field operations for the regulation of oil and gas operations.

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