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This wellhead on an out-of-service oil shaft on rangeland about 14 miles north of Mitchell, Nebraska, marks where a Colorado oil company would like to create a disposal well for saltwater that is the byproduct of oil production. The proposal has alarmed many local people opposed to the size and nature of the project.

LINCOLN — There will be no postponing a decision this week by the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on a controversial oil field wastewater disposal well in Sioux County.

Seven state lawmakers, including the speaker and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, wrote a letter last week requesting that the commission delay acting on a request by Terex Energy Corp. of Broomfield, Colorado. The firm wants to convert an inactive oil well to a commercial injection well for water collected during oil and natural gas operations. Some of the same senators called for the delay during a vote last week confirming a new member of the commission.

Bill Sydow, executive director of the commission, said the letter arrived Monday. Commission rules require a decision on the Terex application by Thursday.

“We have to go by our rules,” Sydow said. “If we can provide any information about the oil and gas industry, or natural resources, we’ll do that at any time.”

The state senators requesting delay said the wastewater operation raises serious fiscal, legal and public safety questions.

“It is our strong belief that there should be an opportunity for the Legislature to examine the statutes regarding the disposal of state wastewater before the State of Nebraska moves forward on this issue,” they wrote.

Disposal wells are a requirement for oil and gas production and have operated without incident in Nebraska for more than 50 years.

Wastewater is injected deep into the earth to prevent contaminating freshwater aquifers near the surface. The northwest Nebraska well would be the state’s fifth commercial disposal operation. There are 121 active disposal wells across the state.

The letter to the commission was signed by Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney and State Sens. Al Davis of Hyannis, Ken Haar of Malcolm, John Kuehn of Heartwell, Heath Mello of Omaha, John Stinner of Gering and Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids. Mello is Appropriations Committee chairman; Haar, Kuehn and Stinner are members of that nine-member committee.

Ken Winston, Sierra Club of Nebraska lobbyist, said the letter indicates growing concern among state senators about disposal wells.

The commission is scheduled for a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at its office in Sidney. Commissioners heard testimony on the issue at a March 24 hearing.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1127, david.hendee@owh.com

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