Fracking near Pawhuska raises concerns

PAWHUSKA, Okla. - Two new oil rigs under construction near Pawhuska have some residents raising concerns.

Encana Natural Gas held an open house for residents Thursday night to address them.

Oil wells already dot much of the land across rural Osage County. Soon two new horizontal oil wells will join them.

They'll use hydraulic fracking to extract oil from hundreds of feet below the ground.

"No, we don't want this. It's enough. Let's look at other things to bring money and jobs to our people," said resident Sheryl Hill.

The oil well sites are just a few miles away from Lake Pawhuska. In fact, the lake will play a key role in drilling.

Encana is paying the city to pump more than two million gallons of water from the lake. It will be sent through a pipeline to the oil well sites for drilling.  

Some Pawhuska residents are concerned fracking could lead to ground water contamination and earthquakes.

"Where we are drilling for oil and gas is at an area thousands of feet below any type of producing water zone important to the environment or the citizens who use it," said John Keil with the environmental division of Encana.  

Keil says Encana thoroughly evaluated any environmental concerns before starting the project.

"Encana shares our neighbors concerns for the environment. It's one of the pillars on which we base our business," he said.

While many residents still have questions and concerns about drilling, some county leaders say the project will be a boost for the economy.  

"It'll be a lot of jobs. This will just expand. We're already getting more jobs every day, and it's a big help for Osage County," said Osage County Commissioner Bob Jackson.

Jackson says he's not too concerned the oil wells will have a negative effect on the land.

"We've got oil wells all over Osage County. I don't think it will be any harder on the environment than what we've got. I don't forsee problems there."

But not everyone agrees.

"We're vast, we're rural. So we're looking to bring companies in. But it doesn't have to be oil and gas, that will destroy what's left," Hill said.

Encana leased 80,000 acres of mineral rights from the Osage Nation for possible future oil wells. The first oil well should ready by the end of the month.

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